I’ve let my CEO think I’m engaged to a woman but I’m not

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” post. A reader writes:

I am a junior employee at a relatively small firm. I am in a same-sex relationship, but am uncomfortable openly sharing about my sexuality in the office.

My fiance has a gender neutral name. This coupled with the term “fiance” rather than “boyfriend” has let me talk about my relationship without outing myself (“My fiance Taylor and I…”).

The founding partner of my firm will sometimes make small comments that clearly indicates he thinks I’m engaged to a woman (“I can’t wait to meet her!”, “Feel free to invite her to the company lunch,” etc.). He has good intentions, and I do not want to make any kind of statement or splash in my office by correcting him, so I have carried on the conversations as if I was engaged to a woman. Many of my colleagues are religious and I am worried about how they would feel about my relationship (or me as a person).

Recently some of my more liberal coworkers met my fiance, and learned about my sexuality after adding him on Facebook and seeing photos of us. They have reacted well and are supportive, but in the break room my boss recently made another comment indicating he thought I was engaged to a woman, and I saw some of my coworkers raise eyebrows when I did not correct him. I do not want to be seen as deceitful. I am increasingly worried that office gossip is spreading and I will be outed to my boss soon.

I’m at a loss for what to do. I don’t really want to discuss my sexuality at work, but don’t want to be seen as dishonest, especially in a field where ethics are highly valued. Should I come out to my boss? I would feel so uncomfortable, but also don’t want office gossip to hurt my reputation or credibility. What do you think?

Readers, what’s your advice, keeping in mind that the letter-writer doesn’t feel entirely safe coming out to the office? I’d especially love to hear from LGBTQ readers.

Updated to add: Not only would I especially love to hear from LGBTQ readers, I’m asking that straight people hang back on this one and defer to the expertise of people with lived experience.

{ 1,061 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I am seeing now that I should have asked straight people to hang back on this one and let LGBTQ people with lived experience take the lead on it. Straight people, our role on this one is to listen and not assume we have expertise.

    I’m posting this a bit late, but I do ask that of any comments from this point on. Thank you.

    1. solar flare*

      and if people, straight or otherwise, could stop being sassy about this request, that would be great

    2. DaniCalifornia*

      I’ve only come here to say that I appreciate this comment and all the other commenters who shared their perspectives/stories/thoughts/feelings/experiences. It was helpful for me to read about how others feel.

    3. FauxArtiste*

      Would it be possible to have an open thread on issues like this some time? I “pass” because of my straight cishet partner but issues like this crop up at work all the time, especially with nobinary associates.

      1. AMT*

        I would also love to have a thread on this. I also usually “pass” in work situations (not visibly trans) but it’s not free of problems.

      2. Alex*

        Ooh can I fourth(?) this request? I have a semi-related question to OP’s and don’t want to derail. An open thread would be a perfect forum for this.

    4. JSPA*

      To keep in mind for future October 11ths: I can see why you’d post this on national coming out day, but wonder if the timing may be driving some prescriptive responses of the “should” / “rah, rah” variety–followed by a predictable wave of “shutting that down,” for an overall more rancorous tone than usual. You might get more nuanced responses on some other, random day.

      1. Gay and Afraid*

        This is a good point, but probably not intentional on Alison’s part. I just sent the letter in earlier this week.

        1. JSPA*

          So, whatever the flip side of synchronicity is, then…
          Alison, sorry for assuming.
          Gay and Afraid, good luck regardless of the path(s) and procedure(s) you choose.

    5. Gay and Afraid*

      Hi everyone it’s the letter writer.

      My head is honestly spinning from all of the advice and I feel a little sick reading the comments. I grew up going to conversion therapies and churches, and have only come out relatively recently. It’s been incredibly hard and little things like this remind me how so many aspects of my life will be harder because of my sexuality.

      There are a couple of points that I feel people are missing:
      -I’m not even “out” on my own social media, they found out through my fiance. How often do you have to discuss your sexuality at work? Would you really want to? It’s painful and scary and intimate, and rejection is a (frequent) reality for me.
      -There are seniors, managers, partners, etc. in addition to the founding partner that I’ve mislead. Even if some take it well, will I miss out on committees, happy hour invites, etc.?
      -I have lied, and I have lied for a long time. It’s been to protect myself, but ultimately dishonesty is dishonesty, and I feel my credibility will take a hit.

      Sorry for how raw this post is, but my head is still spinning and seeing all these different perspectives on my sexuality is harder than I thought.

      I will try to post a few responses to you all – thanks for taking the time to offer your thoughts to me.

      1. Gay and Afraid*

        ^Sorry for how bitter and victim-y that sounded. I also want to name and recognize that I had some agency in this whole situation, and in some ways backed myself into a corner. It would have been better to avoid discussing my relationship status at all.

        1. Gay and Afraid*

          I posted a few responses but am pretty drained… hopefully nothing was too sharp or emotional! I’ll check back throughout the weekend for any additional feedback. I read all the comments and want to thank everyone for taking the time to give their input, even if some of it was harder to hear than others. I’m sure that what was posted is what many of my coworkers will think/feel but not express to me, so I’m glad for the spectrum of thoughts and opinions.

          One other thing I should clarify is that when I say “small” firm, my firm is about 120 employees, which is small for my industry. However, office gossip moves fast and I have no doubt I’ll be outed soon. I’ll decide on Sunday what to do and keep everyone in the loop.

          1. Gay and Afraid*

            Also I’m regretting not choosing “Gayked and Afraid” as my name. Very easy missed opportunity and you all deserve better.

            1. Gandalf the Nude*

              You are my new favorite OP, and you will be Gayked and Afraid in my heart whatever your username actually shows. <3

              I don't have a lot of useful advice on the practicum of this situation. As a queer woman partnered with a cis straight man, I have a pretty big safety net, and I just don't have the experience of my partner's identity being to be secret. I'm sorry.

              But I want to tell you that I don't think there's any moral failing in prioritizing your safety re: outing yourself, and it's a very different category of falsehood than, say, claiming to have a certification you don't. I also understand that can be a really hard thing to internalize, especially when all your life you've already been bombarded with the message that your whole sexuality is a moral failing. However this situation shakes out, I think taking that to heart will help make future choices easier, or at least weigh on your conscious less.

              I'll be thinking of you!

            2. Tiny Soprano*

              Gay and Afraid, I have little advice because I have the privilege of being able to be open about my queerness at work, but I just want to send you some big hugs. Having to closet yourself because you’re not safe to come out is hard. It’s hard to feel like you have to mislead people. But if homophobia wasn’t a thing you wouldn’t have to in the first place. Be safe, my friend.

          2. Beeninthatboat*

            I worked for a boss who I KNEW would retaliate against me if he knew I was in a Same Sex relationship and so stayed away from sharing much of my personal info. It was exhausting and unpleasant and yes, straight people have no idea how much daily editing some LGBQT people do in normal conversations. “What did you do this weekend?” Becomes a carefully crafted story that edits out ‘we’ ‘she’ ‘he’ etc. and makes you feel like one slip will bring the hammer down. It’s exhausting.
            Anyway when I moved to a different department I was still so accustomed to keeping it a secret and private I had a hard time switching to open mode and as OP has found, retroactively going back gets harder and harder. Eventually a coworker who knew outed me when I was not at work one day and then told me afterwards. Was that nice? No. Was I happy? No. Did I want to strangle them. Yes. BUUUUT I had a strange, stressful, hand wringing day where I talked to everyone who was important to me at work and explained my reasons. 99.9% totally understood why I had kept up the lies and we moved on. By that next Monday I was sooooo relieved everyone pretty much knew and if they didnt enough people did that word spread on its own. Was that one day a nerve wrecking (ready to drink a stiff drink after work) day? Yes!!! But the relief of finally being able to talk unedited was soooo sweet. Please do yourself a favor and tell those around you (because a coworker will out you knowingly or not) (avoid talking to any likely hater) because they’ll find out and that’s totally fine. And then feel immensely relieved you are unburdened.
            I feel for you and good luck!!!

        2. Bi and Shy*

          I completely understand your conflicting emotions, as well as your desire to reclaim agency to the overwhelming narrative that is unravelling in the comments. I write this comment not to offer advice, as I believe that has been beaten beyond usefulness in this nauseating and overwhelming comment section. Rather, I want to say that I empathize with you. I, too, have only dipped my toe into coming out, and not in a workplace. I will be thinking of you, and wishing you all the best.

        3. Amber Rose*

          Its understandable. I’m wishing you all the best and will have my fingers and toes crossed that things go well.

      2. Gay and Afraid*

        Sorry one last comment and then I will stop for tonight – I think one thing that people are missing too is that I am extroverted, amicable, and warm towards my co-workers. I enjoy chit-chatting and sharing about what I did over the weekend “with my fiance Taylor”. I was surprised by how much of the advice was “just don’t share any personal details about your life”. While I know that many people choose this for themselves, I hope that they can see how this is a choice they make, and how taking away that choice from me is painful in and of itself (even if it is practical).

        1. LabTech*

          I just want to offer you hugs and support for what you’re going through right now, and for how painful your relationship with your sexuality has been in the past. I’m sorry that this is such a difficult time for you right now. There’s no need to apologize – this is an incredibly hard and emotionally draining thing to be going through, and you have our support 100% regardless of how you approach this. Good luck, and I wish you and Taylor the best! (Also take note: your emotional well-being comes before any obligation to keep us all updated here!!)

        2. Jasnah*

          I don’t have any advice, just sympathy and internet hugs for you. I’m sorry that you have to deal with this and I hope you can find a way to continue to be warm and friendly with your coworkers and also true to who you want to be. You sound like a thoughtful and kind person, and I want to believe your coworkers will see that before they see your sexual orientation. As the diversity of advice shows, there are many ways to do this and you are free to do this in whatever way works for you. Best of luck!

        3. Anon for this, because I'm not sure I want to out myself*

          I’m sorry that our lives are on such public display, that we are judged for this.

          I identify in the LBGTQI group. I’m now conveniently married in a nice neat parcel looking heterosexual relationship, but this hasn’t always been the case.

          I found being quietly honest worked best in the past. Finding a casual moment when there were no onlookers, but also no reason to hang around for the aftermath… to spring the news. And then jsut a casual “Oh… Sam’s not a guy, Sam’s a girl… Sorry I didn’t realise I hadn’t made that clear and it’s been misunderstood” and then smile, grab the printouts off the printer… and run. And… selectively inform the person in the group who can help fix the social conundrum…s omeone quiet, respected, open to difference and able to quietly move the social mojo around… there’s always somone everyone likes who isn’t a gossip, but is a social… lubricant. Find that person, and do the same informal drop on them… they’ll back you up from there….

          At least, that’s how I’ve handled it in the past… but it wasn’t marriage level, just girlfriends… so yeah… I can see why you are a) nervous about this and b) wanting to clear it up. I was in a very Dilbert world where people didn’t handle difference well and where difficulties were rife. A lot of the time I said nothing, but eventually I decided it wasn’t worth supressing who I was for this place, and I wound up taking a girlfriend to something.

        4. solar flare*

          thank you for stopping in and replying to us, OP. i wish you the best and am looking forward to hearing how you decide to handle things!

        5. Zillah*

          I’m right there with you – I get why people say “don’t share personal details,” but it’s just not actionable advice for me. I think that there’s often not enough acknowledgment that not doing something can be every bit as difficult as doing it, for different people.

        6. bonkerballs*

          I really appreciate you saying this. I do think this happens to be a space where a particularly large and/or vocal group is fairly compartmentalized between work and “real life.” And that’s fine for them, but it can be difficult for people who don’t feel that way to sometimes be heard or seen as making valid choices when sharing their lives with those they work with.

          I don’t really have any specific advice for you (or at least good advice – my first though when reading your letter was to wait until it came out and then if ever confronted about it pretend you had no idea they didn’t realize your fiance was a man and had just never noticed them misgendering him), but just know I’m thinking of you and wishing you all the best.

        7. JM60*

          This area is very unfair for us LGBT folks. So many essentially think that you have to forgo talking about almost all of your personal life, or you have to out yourself to everyone. After all, most of your personal life probably involves your fiance in one way or another, so like you said, it’s hard to talk about common topics, such as what you did over the weekend, while omitting talking about the person you were doing it with. It’s ridiculous that many people would consider it to be dishonest for you to talk at all about your fiance without outing yourself when someone assumes your significant other is a woman.

          Since I’m introverted and very rarely talk about myself at work, I’ve only had one time where I need to make a decision to either dance around with pronouns or come out at work.

        8. Clytia*

          I don’t think I can fully identify with what you’re going through, because I didn’t spend very long in the closet myself. I realised I was queer when I was 19, swore to myself I’d never come out nor tell anyone but some close friends, because I didn’t want my parents to get hurt … but that only lasted a couple of months at most.
          Not too long after I met the woman I ended up marrying about a year later and I was always very open about that, took breaks from family when I needed it, but at work I was very open about having a girlfriend/wife, and even now that we’re divorced and I’m dating guys I’m very open about being bi. But also, I’m in New Zealand, and I’m guessing things are different here. For one thing, legally, I’m fully protected from any discrimination, but while yes, there absolutely is still homophobia and biphobia (one of the reasons I’m no longer on speaking terms with my ex-mother!), and I’m not an extrovert and do prefer to keep to myself (I’m autistic and I don’t get chit-chat and small talk), I’m very much out and to me if anyone wants to take issue with who I am (whether my queer identity or the fact that I’m autistic), that’s a *them* problem, not a *me* problem, and if they want to make it a *me* problem, they’ll see just how fiercely I’ll fight them on it.
          But I completely get that that might not be where you’re at. I don’t know if you have the law to back you up where you are. You need to make sure that you have a good Team You in place and lots of excellent self care. By the sounds of it from your comments it looks like you’ve decided that coming out/being outed is inevitable, so make sure you plan something nice to do for yourself after work on the day you do it. Have people other than just your fiancee you can talk to about this (close friends, family, you mentioned you’re Christian – do you have a supportive religious community?, a therapist, a pet), a comforting meal, a fun activity, the commenting community here. Plan something so that if you do the coming out thing it won’t be the biggest thing you do that day, but rather you’ll see an awesome movie or have a great date night or work on some awesome wedding planning or something that day.
          Also, do check out the discrimination laws where you live, just in case!
          And I’m sending you jedi hugs if you want them and congratulations on the upcoming wedding!
          Also, you said somewhere that you can’t police your fiance’s social media use… but surely your fiance knew that you weren’t out at work, so can you maybe talk to your fiance about how his accepting these friend requests has impacted you at work? I mean, sure, you could’ve been honest with everyone about his gender, but you don’t owe your colleagues/boss that. It’s up to you (or it should be) when you’re comfortable coming out and now it’s like your hand has been forced, so for your colleagues to social media stalk you is weird and not cool and for your fiance to accept their friend requests (without talking to you about it?) is worth discussing…
          All the best!!

      3. Random Gay Commenter*

        Speaking to how often do you discuss your sexuality at work: way more often then you’d think.
        Any time someone mentions their wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, they’re implicitly discussing their sexuality. It flies under the radar for straight people because of the assumption of heterosexuality. Saying “Catherine and I are thinking about getting the roof re-done” is talking about your sexuality.

        Only you know how accepting your co-workers are, and being shunned for being gay is a legit concern, but getting in trouble for dishonesty is probably less of a concern. Most people understand why queer people don’t share information about their sexuality right away.

        1. Anon for this*

          And sometimes it’s not just social chit-chat that might be considered optional. I had a co-worker who ended up coming out at work because his husband suddenly got seriously ill. It would have been impossible to deal with that situation appropriately without outing himself.

      4. Gay Hamster in the Corporate Wheel*

        Hi “Gay and Afraid”!
        First, like Dan Savage has told us – It Gets Better! Hold on to that as you navigate life.
        Married openly gay man here, working for a major (top 3) bank in a decent size southern US city. So much does depend on where you live and where you work, so your experience is yours. But mine? The more you talk with people, the more you find you have in common.
        You may have a few individuals THINK differently of you, but unless you’re in a really small, small-minded, or toxic work environment you may be surprised at the acceptance and positivity once you get past your history and fear. When my husband and I married, it was our site’s Exec Asst that set up our wedding. A straight PM caught wind and wanted details, as her grown son was gay and engaged. Our Compliance Executive wanted to compare plans about his own upcoming wedding to his girlfriend.
        Over half my current team is ex-military (both male and female), we all naturally ask what we did over the weekend, etc. and no one bats an eye at “Husband and I did this.”
        One way might just be to own it in the moments that occur. When someone mistakes Taylor for a female, just casually say “Oh, Taylor’s a he. The name confuses people all the time.” and play it off. If asked directly why you lied, be honest – “It’s really hard to directly correct someone when they’ve assumed you are straight. I am trying to get better about that.”

        I’m sincerely sorry rejection has been a reality for you and I hope it gets better!

      5. Fact & Fiction*

        I just wanted to offer you love, light, and support. Your feelings are understandable and valid and you don’t owe apologies for them. This whole situation sucks. You do need to keep your gut feelings and safety forefront in your mind. I’m glad you have so many members of the LGTBQ+ community here giving you their wealth of experience and opinions.

        As a straight, cishet woman with a young son, it always breaks my heart to hear stories of the rejection and dangers that members of the LGBTQ+ face, especially from family and friends. I spend hours each week gaming online with mostly gay men, some of who honored me enough to invite me into their closed community of male gaymers who play our game of choice. I love them like brothers and always try to be a supportive, loving force in their lives just like they are in mine. We give each other unconditional love and acceptance. I adore them for everything they are, and couldn’t imagine them as anything other than their authentic selves. BUT I want them first and foremost safe so you better believe if that means they can’t be out with everyone or I need to watch what I say to help them be safe, I darn well understand.

        Most importantly, I listen to them. I learn and grow as an ally by listening without trying to speak over them. I am by no means infallible, and I love that they help me grow as a human who wants to do and be better as an ally.

        Don’t get me wrong, we rack up most of our hours trying to destroy our pixelated enemies and reporting toxic/homophobic/racist/misogynistic people (so a LOT), but we do discuss our personal lives. And I love that they trust me enough to discuss a lot of the sh$t they’ve gone through, and I trust them enough to tell me when I’m mucking things up.

        All that to say that sometimes the best thing we straight cishet folks can do is listen and just be supportive.

      6. Someone On-Line*

        I feel like you’re being too hard on yourself here. You are a normal person trying to make a rational decision in a dysfunctional world. I hope a few days of reflection gives you some clarity on your next move.

      7. tacocat*

        Hi there! I really can empathize with your situation. I have been out as a lesbian in my previous jobs in academia, where it seemed like everyone else was gay too. Then I moved into the private sector and everyone seemed much more conservative. I also find it very awkward coming out because I can’t just casually mention a girlfriend, since I’m single. For some reason that always made it much easier for me.

        To your points:
        -I STILL hate posting anything about my sexual orientation on social media, although I do very occasionally, I cringe when I do it. And I’ve been out for 15 years. No, I do not want to discuss my sexuality at work. You never know how people will react. Something you would think would have a terrible reaction could be fine. Even worse, someone you would think wouldn’t even have a reaction could be very negative. This is reality and it’s something LGBT folks are constantly gauging. Whether it’s safety walking down the street or worrying about having a job tomorrow or being left out of important company meetings or events. Only you can decide whether you want to take that risk and what the actual risk is.
        -I LIKE to think that people understand coming out as something difficult. But everyone is different. Sure, some people might be offended. Others will understand more than you thought they would.
        Bottom line: it is 10000% your choice to come out or not come out at work. No one should make that decision for you. There is no “should” in this scenario. It’s what feels right and safe to you.

      8. Jennifer Thneed*

        Hi toots. I’m an old lady who was coming out in the dark ages, and I totally get all your concerns. I’m going to come back and read more later (and ideally just read stuff from us gay folks) but I want to tell you quickly and now that you’re going down a path that will ultimately lead you to a happier place than you are.

      9. Database Developer Dude*

        You do you, OP. Speaking as a straight, cis-het person, there’s no way I could emotionally know what you’re going through. Anyone criticizing you for holding back where you don’t feel safe is someone who needs to have several seats.

      10. Lady Lyndon*

        I was hit hard for how I addressed this, and let me tell you that I think I was a bit harsh. Being discreet about your sexuality is not something you should be faulted for and is incredibly, incredibly personal.

        If you simply clarified the situation, I would not hold it against you or consider you less credible because of how uniquely painful hiding your sexuality is.

        I apologize for being judgmental. Just make sure you share as much (or as little) as you want to going forward instead of creating a false narrative. You do not owe anyone an explanation for your personal life.

        1. Gay and Afraid*

          I don’t think you should be sorry – there will be many different perspectives in my firm and I’m glad you shared yours, because I know other people will think it but not say it. I deeply appreciate all the support, but am also appreciating the harder comments too so I can process and evaluate how I would want to respond to different reactions from my boss and my peers.

      11. JSPA*

        This is 100% normal. coming to terms with being LGBT(etc), and figuring out what it means to live life as a non cis-het person isn’t just one thing. It involves a huge set of overlapping processes.

        There’s admitting to having urges; admitting to the urges being a positive thing; admitting to an identity; admitting to a social role; admitting to a person you’re attracted to; admitting to someone you feel you can trust; admitting to someone you feel you need to tell; admitting to someone you feel you don’t need to tell; being cool with others telling others…and on, and on.

        People don’t do these things in an orderly series. People do them in a sort of overlapping, recursive process. People start them in different orders. (Some people have no clue what’s up until they’re making out with someone unexpected, and things click. Some people stay in a purely hypothetical state of identity for decades.) And process on each of these items is also totally idiosyncratic. People reach some sort of comfortable point in each (or stall out, as the case may be) at very different rates, and to very different degrees, or skip some entirely. Or circle back, along the lines of, “I came out as a lesbian, but I’m starting to feel like I’m actually a trans man, and I’m dating someone who’s a trans woman, but some of my lesbian friends are separatist and not comfortable with either of us, and it’s all confusing.”) If you’re expecting a guaranteed “one and done,” or a “right way to do this”–as with parenting, there isn’t one right answer, and in the absence of one right answer, you muddle through.

        You’ve already had a couple of lifetimes worth of guilt. It could well be a default emotion by now, and you could well be defaulting to guilt over your coming out process because your oversized guilt centers are no longer filled with guilt over your identity. You and those who deal with you will probably feel more comfortable if you can find a way to breathe out, and let a little more of the guilt go.

        You’re right, people (including other gay people!) may feel a momentary twinge of negative emotion that you didn’t tell them differently, earlier, later, or whatever. They may, on some level, expect you to be at some other place in your internal calculus by the time you’re getting married. (Mazel Tov on the impending nuptials, BTW). But not every understandable reaction is a reasonable reaction. It’s like the head of accounting wanting you to have told them about a spreadsheet error six months ago, when you yourself figured it out last tuesday, and they were on vacation until yesterday. They can have their twinge–yes, it would have been nice if it had worked out otherwise, in some other parallel universe–but they really can’t ask you to retroactively change reality. Nor should you beat yourself up for living in THIS universe, inside YOUR head and inside YOUR body. (You already know you can’t magically be someone else.)

        I can’t promise that things will be exactly as you hope and envision them. But compared to the circles of hell you’ve already been through, the possibility of finding a job at a different company that’s more fully open and welcoming, if this one isn’t…I think I can in fact promise that it would not be anything like the worst thing that’s happened to you. In fact, “after glowing reports, my company told me to leave when they found out my fiance was another man” is one of those really, really excellent, no fault reasons for leaving a job. And companies where your orientation is not an issue (as it may not, in fact, be, at your company!) are more often than not going to be good places to work at in other ways.

        In practical terms, the more out you are, the less coming out you need to do, going forward. Some people get to do the “ripping the bandaid off” thing. Others, for whatever reasons (practical, personal, psychological) can’t or don’t choose to. However you do it, you already know that you will not lose all your friends, nor all your contacts. You will not lose your work history. A few people may out you with malign intent. But the good thing about homophobes (and transphobes) is, they often think being outed is the worst thing you can do to someone. They’re actually really unlikely to make up additional stuff that would make you (broadly) less employable. So their intended bad reference can serve as a perfectly good reference, for the jobs you actually want. One of my friends favorite old reference letters says that “he’s a hard worker and endlessly helpful, but we let him go because it’s too disruptive that he dresses, acts, and wants to be treated as a woman at all times.” That’s…actually a great reference for her. (She’s retired and on disability now, so I can’t vouch for its current effectiveness. But neighbors in her past and current very blue collar / very red-voting neighborhoods are fiercely loyal to her.) Along the same lines, I found out that people were mocking my stylistic androgyny by calling me “Pat” behind my back. On some level it stung. On another, I decided that (mockery aside), there were worse things than being seen, and named. It did affect my assessment of the maturity and openmindedness of the people involved, but it had zero practical impact on my job.

        There are really a lot of LGBT people in every branch of every business in the US, Europe and Canada. “Conservative” industries very, very much included. Being passively out / being married to a guy will not render you unemployable in any field, unless what you do is specifically religious in nature–and even then, that’s not a sure thing. Do pick your jaw up off the floor if any of the top brass come out to you, though, OK? Furthermore, this is probably not the first time all of these people have been come out TO. They may be more comfortable with their role in the process than you are, with yours.

        You’ve been through a lot of changes. You’ve been repeatedly placed in situations where you could not control or direct your path in life. You’re really, really, really ready for life to finally follow the plan you’re setting for it. But you’re still going to bump into a lot of random uncertainties. Some more so, for being in a cis-homo marriage. Others less so (no unexpected pregnancies). At the moment, we’re in an economy when great people with relevant training are in pretty short supply.

        Other nuggets that may tide you through this time…

        1. financially speaking, statistically, professional gay male couples do well, long term.

        2. As you come out, incrementally, you will, by being findable, find other LGBT people in your field who have not only survived but prospered. You can use them as models and mentors. Or you can follow your heart’s direction. Or make peace with the capriciousness of fate. Or some of each.

        3. your firm’s clients are guaranteed not all straight, either. Even ‘phobic bosses have been known to keep a gay employee to deal with gay clients. While this is conceptually a bit problematic in various ways, it’s not the worst thing, short-term.

        4. happiness makes people easy to like, and makes strange, unfamiliar situations more sympathetic. You’ve got someone who’s thrilled to marry you, and you’re too happy to not mention their name. That isn’t “strategic,” and you couldn’t do it as an intentional strategy if you wanted to. But as it’s happening willy-nilly, the magic is spreading. You’ll definitely have some of your coworkers rooting for you and looking out for you.

      12. NorthernSoutherner*

        LW, I don’t know anything about hiding my sexuality at work, but I do know about *hiding* at work. I present a work face that has nothing to do with me as a person. I learned to be “someone else” from earliest childhood because of the abuse and alcoholism in my family. When people ask about my parents, it’s hard to be anything but extremely vague, and people who don’t get that I’m uncomfortable will keep pressing. When people ask me how many siblings I have and I say “one” I’m a gigantic liar because my other sibling drank herself to death. But I know enough to realize that these are just superficial questions that don’t expect depth in return, so I keep things to myself (having made the mistake in earlier years of coming clean and being the object of well-meaning but horrible, impromptu therapy sessions).
        As I said, I know this is different from what you’re going through, but now that I’m older and have more perspective, I will say this — give people a chance. Most people do care or at the very least, are not out to hurt you. Good luck, LW.

      13. former foster kid*

        hey, i grew up in a really similar environment. conversion therapy fucks with your head for so long afterwards, and if you don’t have a supportive family, i think a lot of people don’t get how very isolating life can be.

        so hello. i’m agender (maybe trans-masc) and was sent to jesus camp when i was 14. i still have nightmares. i was in and out of foster care anyway, and that was the kind of clincher to really have me re-homed. i spent the rest of my teenager years in the care of a wonderful gay couple, who tried very, very hard to undo all the trauma i’d grown up with. i literally moved across an ocean to get away from all the old hauntings and have a more open life.

        i’m not out at work, except to 2 people who are also queer. i think sometimes, that ship has sailed, because i *haven’t* corrected pronouns or assumptions for so long. but i do think that a good number of people recognise the fear that still comes from having to come out, especially when you come from an unsupportive background, and do not view it as lying at work; rather it is acting in a matter for your own safety.

        and i think it’s important to recognise that too: what is safety to you? presumably, you are safe with your partner (i know when i am in the thralls of a panic attack or nightmare, i usually just want my partner there with me).
        is safe being financially sound? roof over your head? that’s where the outing at work comes in. maybe everything goes fine, people recognise that it’s silly to assume gender and sexuality, and laugh it off and everything’s okay. or maybe you’ve got a bigot coworker who makes your life miserable. do you have plans for dealing with these different outcomes?

        this is going to be a little bit cheesy, but i find it super comforting: last year on that reality program, survivor, a trans person was outed by someone else. the other person outed the trans person in order to make it seem like the trans person had been lying to them. but all the other people on survivor? they recognised that outing someone is not cool, and that deciding to come out on your own terms is best, and they voted out the person that did the outing. (note: i read about all of this last year, but have never actually seen an episode, so the details may be simplified here)

        and i truly think that’s how most people feel today: that it’s up to you when to come out. it’s not lying to not come out, it’s just self-protection.

        that said: if you are out and comfortable/happy enough to get married (and congrats on that!!) maybe think about what it says to others waiting to come out at work, without having role models ahead of them.

        i really wish you the best, and i hope you write an update to alison with what you decide. alison knows who i am and has my email address, if you’d ever like to get in touch.

      14. Lost in communication*

        When I was first hired at my current company, our leadership was really liberal and I didn’t hide the fact I was married to a woman. If people asked about a husband, I would correct them and say wife, I wore my wedding ring, I brought my spouse to company events, etc. Then we hired a new CEO and through internal restructuring we ended up with a much more conservative leadership. I immediately stopped wearing my wedding ring and I avoid talking about my wife where I can. While my team knows I’m married to a woman, it’s something I’ve never shared with my company’s current leadership for fear of what might happen. It really sucks having to keep such a tight lid on something other people mention and discuss freely, and it is awful living in fear of the consequences of people finding out something about your life that is really none of their business and has no bearing on you’re ability to do your job.

        In your case, if you’re closer to any of your co-workers, I’d see if you could feel them out on how your relationship might be perceived if outed or maybe explain to one of them why you don’t correct your boss. It is an extremely difficult situation to be in, that is for sure. A logical, rational individual will clearly see and understand why you did not correct people and allowed the assumption to persist. Unfortunately, people rarely behave completely logically and rationally. Best case is you apologize, correct people, take the integrity hit, and hope the rest of your track record and work speaks for itself that this is just a (very stressful) bump in the road.

        I’m truly sorry you’re in this boat and even have to deal with this. Also, congratulations to you and your fiancé :)

    6. Straight and Sad*

      I know that it’s par for the course in 2018 to just bluntly tell any majority group to collectively shut the hell up when it comes to issues involving a minority that they aren’t part of, I’m still disappointed about this blog jumping on the identity politics bandwagon.

      Wouldn’t it have been so much better to ask straight people (as well as everyone else) to be kind and considerate, and only contribute after carefully considering if our comments are actually relevant and meaningful? What if some of us have experienced something like this from the other side, and have thoughts and feelings about the incident? I’d think this story has two sides, and the way to solve the situation would involve both, right? Isn’t a large part of the entire blog all about listening to “the other side,” i.e. employees hearing a manager’s take? And what if we have close friends who have stories that we can relate?

      I don’t think it helps if we divide people into tribes and isolate them from each other.

      Just my two cents — I won’t be commenting here further, obviously.

  2. Eagerbeaver*

    I’m a fan of the subtle correction myself. “Oh, I can’t wait to meet her!” “Yeah, he’s looking forward to meeting everyone as well”. That way you don’t have the big splash, but you can still correct people as you go without making a big deal of it, if this is something you would be cool with.

    1. Mystery Bookworm*

      I think a gentle, “actually, it’s he” might be better? I think just ignoring it might confuse some people (who maybe won’t even hear or fully register the difference btw pronouns).

      1. VC*

        Pronoun replacement is also my tactic of choice, and the key is doing it with a gentle but matter-of-fact emphasis. IME, the vast majority of people get the point. Most people quickly apologize for assuming and move on with the conversation, some people are embarrassed and it can be more of a chore to redirect them, but not very many people react with confusion or otherwise poorly.

        I live and work in a “blue oasis” large city in a conservative state, but this has held true outside that city as well.

      2. Meliza*

        I like the gentle correction a bit better myself, especially since it’s been going on for some time. For context, I’m a queer ciswoman and this is what I would do.

      3. Rebecca*

        I’ve found that pronoun replacement is often ignored! I wish it worked, but hasn’t in my experience.

      4. ms pineapple*

        agree on this. Dropping an “actually, my partner is a man, his name is X” casually the next time you get a comment might be the slightly stronger version, which could feel more uncomfortable, but it also gives more information that tends to help people make your partner a person and not “some gay guy”.

        OP mentions that he doesn’t want to make his sexuality a topic of conversation. as a big queer myself who was recently married, i have always been very very “oh yes, my partner/my girlfriend/etc” when casually mentioning say, weekend plans. it tends to not invite a huge conversation about my sexuality, but does get it across that my partner is a woman.

        disclaimer: i’m very lucky to be in a high demand field/position and although there are not protections in my state against getting fired on grounds of gay, i have always been able to say “if it’s a problem i don’t want to work here anyway.”

      5. aebhel*

        Agreed. I’ve done the ‘subtle redirection’ thing when talking about past girlfriends (I’m bi and my partner is a man, so people tend to just assume I’m straight), and IME it just goes right over most people’s heads, especially if they’re the type to make that assumption in the first place.

    2. Psyche*

      That works if he is ready to come out to his boss. Since he wants to keep his sexuality private, it might be easiest to avoid discussing his fiancé at all while at work. It might also help to talk to the colleagues who know and explain that he does not want to be out at work because he is unsure of the reaction from the conservative colleagues. If he doesn’t address it with he colleagues who do know, it is likely that he will be outed unintentionally.

      1. Nita*

        Agreed – but the boat has sailed on not mentioning the engagement. Talking to the colleagues who know is a good idea. At the least, it leaves the decision of whether/how to tell the boss up to OP.

        1. Zillah*

          I agree with talking to the colleagues who know. I can see a well-meaning straight colleague correct the boss to be helpful without understanding the ramifications.

          1. Not Rebee*

            I once had a huge fight with a friend at a wedding because we were talking with total strangers about our exes (unsure how this came up, but we were) and I was being gender neutral on purpose, the strangers were assuming male pronouns (as usual), and my friend felt the need to jump in and correct them on the gender of my ex-girlfriend. I was livid that she had outed me like that and to this day she doesn’t see the problem with what she did (other than that I didn’t like it) and how she had ignored a clear social cue from me to be gender neutral and not correct the wedding strangers. So, OP, if you don’t address it with your coworkers who know, they may very well ignore social cues in an attempt to be well-meaning (and helpful to the boss who is unknowingly putting their foot in it) and make that correction you don’t want made.

            1. BekaAnne*

              How rude of your friend! I really don’t like it when people ride to the rescue when no one needs rescuing.

      1. Sally*

        I’ve had people do a mental double take and pause for a few seconds to get their bearings, but then they keep on going with the conversation. I look straight, so this doesn’t surprise me, and I assume they are just surprised to find out I’m not.

          1. limenotapple*

            I totally understand what Sally meant here. People assume that if you are a gay man, you are flamboyant, if you are a lesbian, you have a mullet and flannel. It’s very easy to “pass” if you don’t have a physical tell like that. No one ever, ever guesses right about me. No one ever suspects I’m queer. Indeed, I “look straight” to people who already have prejudiced ideas of what queer people look like.

            1. A bit of a saga*

              I definitely look more feminine than I used to but I think the biggest difference is that I’m now married and have kids which seems to equal straight in people’s minds. In my almost ten years of marriage I don’t think I have had more than a couple of people not automatically assume I’m married to a man. I’ve also had the awkward dance around pronouns but my last few bosses did not get it until I told them point-blank that my husband was a wife. I now work in a fairly conservative industry. If anybody has a problem with my sexuality I’ve certainly never heard it (though I don’t tell people beyond my closest colleagues proactively. Just because it doesn’t really matter)

          2. Birch*

            Many people associate performing stereotypically gendered appearance with sexuality: dudes who look like “regular dudes” are assumed to be straight dudes, femme appearing people are assumed to be straight women. I get the same reaction, and I don’t usually out myself unless it’s necessary or useful to the conversation because it does confuse people when they’ve made that assumption. That someone can “look straight” is not true, but it’s a common enough assumption that the phenomenon is real.

            The key here is to keep going with the conversation and not leave the opportunity for an awkward silence or explanation. Breeze through it as if it’s no big deal and boss won’t have an opportunity to make it a big deal. (I know Alison says keep in mind OP might not want to be outed, but it sounds like OP is going to be outed by coworkers pretty soon anyway).

          3. Kristine*

            A lot of women are presumed straight if they present as “feminine”– long hair, wearing makeup and dresses, etc. Case in point, I was often assumed straight when I had waist-length hair and dressed in form-fitting clothing. I switched to a pixie cut and looser fitting clothing and a lot less people assume I’m straight. People actually ask me now when I’m mentioned I’m married, “To a man or a woman?”.

              1. ofotherworlds*

                Or straight as the case may be (bi man here). Actually, I think that attitudes about bi men and women boil down to phallocentrism. Bi women must be secretly straight and bi men must actually be gay because no vagina could ever compete with the power of the almighty penis. (This is not actually my attitude, but it’s an assumption behind lots of things stupid people say to me, just to be clear.)

                1. Zillah*

                  If you’re a woman, at least (Idk about men), some cishet men also assume that if you’re bi, you’d definitely be interested in a threesome. The majority of men I’ve dated seriously as an adult have assumed that, and I’ve found that it’s a fairly common jump among people without a lot of queer friends. I don’t know if that’s directly relevant to the OP, but if I was in his position and my boss had ever given me any uncomfortable vibes, I’d likely talk to my colleagues and never tell him.

                2. Curious Cat*

                  Interesting theory! My lived experience as a bi woman is that people assume I’m secretly covering up the fact that I’m a lesbian whenever I date a man, and they know I’m queer (i.e. using him as “beard”). I have to tell those people that nah, I just find all sorts of people super cute.

                3. MM*

                  I think this is dead on. Bi women are dismissed as “experimenting before coming home,” bi men are dismissed as “on the way to gay.” Both are condescending as hell but there is a difference there and I think you’re right about where it comes from.

              2. Blue Anne*

                Marrying my second dude soon. This is confirming to a lot of people that I must be straight.

                Infuriatingly, when a family member who has been well-meaning but skeptical of my bisexuality found out that one of my male partners is trans, he went “Ohhhhh, I understand now”. No. Those things are not connected. You are not invited to Thanksgiving.

                1. Jadelyn*

                  Ewwwwww. Good lord, no, not invited to Thanksgiving or anything else from now on until you learn to behave yourself in polite company. What even.

              3. bonkerballs*

                One time I did find that assumption kind of sweet. I had a straight friend at work that knew I was dating a woman but I guess we’d never has a conversation where I’d explicitly laid out that I’m bisexual and so she made an assumption. Another woman at work had no idea what my sexuality or relationship status was and assumed straight and one day told me about this male friend of hers that she thought I would really hit it off with. My first friend was absolutely incensed on my behalf that this other person was “forcing her hetero-normity” on me. It took me a few minutes to realize why she was mad before I was like “you know I like dudes, too, right?”

              4. Yourethicsconfuseme*

                I just want to say I love everything about curiouscat below, your name and finding all sorts of people super cute. I wish we were friends!

            1. Rainy*

              It also depends so much on where you live. In North America, at least, there are regions where the only associations with various orientations, lifestyles, etc are the, er, campy extremes presented in sitcoms, so people like that are going to make very different assumptions based on the same evidence as other people will.

              Without changing my manner of dress, way of speaking about my spouse, or anything else, what people in the Midwest read as “TOTALLY GAY”, people on the West Coast read as “probably bi” or “indeterminate sexuality but progressive speech habits”.

              1. blackcat*

                “what people in the Midwest read as “TOTALLY GAY”, people on the West Coast read as “probably bi” or “indeterminate sexuality but progressive speech habits”.”

                Yep. Speech habits picked up due to being a native Californian definitely meant that people thought I was gay when I lived in the midwest then south. I referred to my “partner” rather than “boyfriend.” I’m mostly femme presenting, so I was rather perplexed by the assumption of gay-ness until someone brought up the “partner” thing. Then there was a lightbulb! Someone else brought up the fact that, at the time, I almost exclusively wore pants and dull shoes.

                Uh, yeah, I was a science teacher. Pants and closed-toed are for safety. Also, I want shoes sturdy enough to withstand a tool landing on them and well-fitting enough so that I can run (possibly screaming “FIRE”).

                1. Rainy*

                  My favourite instance of this was when someone at a new workplace in the Midwest was clearly trying to suss out “what I was” based on speech and appearance clues, and finally blurted “I’MSORRYAREYOUGAY”.

                2. blackcat*

                  Rainy, if someone asked me that, I’d be really tempted to break out in song, singing “I’m so pretty”

                3. Jadelyn*

                  Rainy, I got a version of that from a work friend once. We were alone in my office, and he leaned in close and *whispered* very hesitantly “are…are you a…lesbian?” I burst out laughing at the way he said it, like it was some really secret shocking thing. (I’m bi, but I hadn’t said that outright, and had just referred to the LGBT community as “us”, so he was very confused.)

                4. Rainy*

                  Nothing beats the fellow grad student (a real #TFG) who, after inviting himself into a number of conversations that I was having with a pal in my program who was also bi, graciously told a new grad student the next year (who wore her hair short, thus signalling lesbian as far as #TFG was concerned) that if she was “sorta-gay” it was okay with him.

                  She told us later that she stared at him in total silence for fully two minutes after he said that, and then said “Sorta-gay????” incredulously, and he was happy to explain “you know, not gay, but not straight. sorta-gay” and when she said “…do you mean bisexual?” he said “oh yes! I knew there was a word!”

                  Friends, the woman is straight.

                5. chi type*

                  Some people just can’t handle ambiguity even if it makes zero practical difference. Lots of people, actually.

          4. Oranges*

            Yeah, I get that too… because all lesbians/gays must fit our cookie cutter molds. Le sigh. I’ve even heard of a “Are you sure? you don’t look gay” response. Thankfully I’ve never gotten it since then my head would explode with the unlogic.

            1. Random Obsessions*

              “Oh I’m sorry I don’t look gay enough, next time I’ll be sure to come out whilst al flagrante delicto”
              Like seriously, what do these people expect?

            2. whingedrinking*

              I love “are you sure”. Some straight people have really weird ideas about what it means to identify as queer.

            3. Len F*

              I’ve always liked that classic bash.org quote:

              > “So my uncle was like “You’re gay?! You don’t look gay!!”, so I said “Yes, I’m one of the newer models, I’m a stealth fag.”

          5. anon today and tomorrow*

            I get told this all the time, as does one of my male friends. He’s a typical bro. I’m stereotypically feminine. People usually have a hard time believing he’s gay and I’m bi.

            A lot of straight people – and even people in the LGBTQA+ community – believe all queer women are butch and wear flannel and all queer men are effeminate and flamboyant. It’s a pretty poor stereotype that keeps getting perpetuated, and it’s particularly harming to those of us who don’t fit society’s idea of “queer” and don’t want to conform to that idea either.

            1. Dankar*

              Oh my god, the flannel! I was talking to an admin yesterday and mentioned that I get taken for a student (at our very liberal, queer-tending campus). I’m small and closer to the students’ age than most people on staff, and that’s what I meant.

              She said, “Oh, it must be the flannel you’re wearing today,” and I am having the most difficult time figuring out if she meant it the way I took it…

              1. anon today and tomorrow*

                I used to have a coworker who prided herself on being woke and an ally, who would love to say, “oh, you’re dressing gay today, must be a lesbian instead of bi day” when I would occasionally wear a flannel shirt and jeans in the winter.

                I had to go to HR because she wouldn’t stop even after I asked her to because I found it offensive. Even then, she didn’t see the issue because “she wasn’t homophobic!”.

                1. Curious Cat*

                  Ohmigod I internally cringed the second I read “must be a lesbian instead of a bi day.” Yikes. Good on you for going to HR! I’ve dealt with homophobia in the workplace in the past but never had the guts to go to HR.

                2. anon today and tomorrow*

                  @Curious Cat: It was worth it for that situation, though I did get the “she’s sensitive, don’t mention anything LGBTQA+ related” from some coworkers after that, which is a whole other issue.

                3. Oranges*

                  Totally not homophobic but willing to trample all over your stated boundary because of a bad joke. Yeah. No. Doesn’t pass the smell test.

                4. Lissa*

                  oh god, this made me cringe because…like, it’s the sort of thing me and my other bi friends will totally say to each other jokingly, like specifically to make fun of this sort of thing/be silly, and I worry that people are going to hear it and think it’s an appropriate thing to say in other contexts. people, noooooo. don’t do it! This is why work needs to be as desexualized/apolitical as possible all the time, because so many people just do not get the nuance of when things aren’t OK!

            2. alienor*

              I was just thinking about this a day or two ago. I’m bi and have never been assumed to be anything but straight–doesn’t matter whether I’m wearing a dress and heels or flannel and Docs. I was married to a man in the past and have a child, so I can see people assuming based on that, but even people who don’t know my family/relationship history still make the assumption. I actually know more lesbians and bi women who are stereotypically feminine-looking than not, so it’s interesting (and annoying) that there’s such a fixed idea in people’s heads.

              1. iglwif*

                I’m also always assumed to be straight (I’m bi), no matter what I’m wearing or what kind of haircut I have. Particularly because I’m married to a cis straight guy–no matter whether I refer to him as my husband, my partner, or my spouse.

                And then when people find out, at least 75% of them start trying to “subtly” ask me if that means we’re not monogamous.

                OP, I am *super sympathetic* to your desire to not make this A Thing at work…

                1. whingedrinking*

                  I’m bisexual and my partner and I *are* non-monogamous. It gives me a bit of a complex about how much to be open about one or the other or both. :P

              2. anon today and tomorrow*

                Agreed. I know a lot of queer women who are stereotypically feminine as well. I think people just have fixed ideas of what a certain demographic looks like and don’t know how to act when they encounter someone who doesn’t fit their preconceived mold. I’ve encountered this mindset in feminist circles, as well. As if I can’t be a “true” feminist just because I wear mascara and dresses.

                1. Kathleen_A*

                  And I know a queer woman who is adamant that she cannot wear flannel – that it would make her “less fem,” I guess. (I’m not sure, but I think she used that precise phrase.) She’s a puzzle in other ways, too, but her insistence – and that really isn’t too strong of a word – that feminine people Must Not Wear Flannel is one of the many things that puzzle me about her because to me (straight female), flannel is just a fabric, not a badge of butchness or something. Ah, well. These are some of the things that make other people so interesting.

                2. Ace in the hole*

                  As a woman working in a very physical/dirty very male-dominated industry, I’ve run into it in both directions: the folks who assume I must be straight because I have long hair and occasionally wear a skirt on the weekends, and the folks who assume I must be a lesbian because I work in a “manly” job and don’t wear makeup or heels. As it happens, neither is correct.

          6. Not Rebee*

            “Passing as straight” is very much a thing, based solely on the idea that the general populace seems to have about the ability to identify a queer person on sight. Not only is gaydar not a thing, because queerness is unrelated (though sometimes correlated) to gender presentation, but it honestly trips them up so much more because they’ve inadvertently leaned hard into an incorrect assumption. And dispelling that assumption is usually when people tend to say the most homophobic things, like “but you’re too pretty to be a lesbian” (don’t ever say that ever, people. It’s not a compliment).

            1. MassMatt*

              Gaydar is not 100% foolproof but it is very much a thing, and doesn’t have to do with gender presentation/stereotypes.

              I would rather not get into the particulars because it is a survival mechanism, best left within the community.

              1. HVee*

                I so agree, gaydar is a thing. I have often met ladies wearing dresses, makeup, etc, and immediately thought, “Ding ding ding!” I have also often met women married to men and immediately known they were bi.
                Straight people very rarely think I’m queer upon first meeting me, but queer people usually recognize me as one of their own.

            2. MM*

              Queerness very often IS related to gender presentation. I’m not sure if you’re trying to say that gender identity and sexuality don’t necessarily covary (i.e., trans people can be het or queer, etc) or if you’re trying to talk about a kind of biological identity thing, but generally speaking queer people and gender nonconformity have gone hand in hand for…ever. This isn’t because all queer people are “born” wanting to present differently necessarily, or that no straight people are, but because being queer *is itself gender nonconformity.* The heteronormative view of gender has straightness built into it. So if you’re going to break that rule of what being a woman or a man is, which is going to involve questioning a LOT of social messaging and assumptions, then you might find yourself interested in breaking some other ones, like how a woman or a man dresses or wears their hair. Or even in reimagining what those choices might mean.

              1. Jennifer Juniper*

                I have actually been yelled at for being too feminine. (At the time, I never wore makeup, because I didn’t know how to put it on correctly.) What annoyed people was my extreme non-assertiveness and submissiveness. I later got diagnosed with Dependent Personality Disorder by two different mental health professionals.

        1. De-Archivist*

          Me, too. Feminine-looking lesbian who likes to cook and sew in permanent, monogamous relationship. People often call me Mrs. Archivist. I work in higher ed. At some point, my “husband” comes up. I just say, “he is a she” or “wife, not husband.” I’m not awkward about it and gracious because it’s not an insult to me, so it’s never been an issue.

          It can feel awkward to come out to your colleagues over and over again. Especially since a lot of people thing of “coming out” as a singular event and not a life-long series. I literally used to practice those conversations in the mirror when I was alone, though that was years ago.

          For LW, you can always say to Boss, “he is a he/my future husband. I should have said something earlier, but it’s always a little awkward coming out at work or for first time” or “I felt weird about correcting you and when I was new here” or similar.

          Colleagues baffled that I am also the designated spider killer and windshield wiper change. Does not seem to compute wish traditional gender roles. Last convo was, “wait, you both do your own laundry?”

          1. Rainy*

            It can feel awkward to come out to your colleagues over and over again.

            Length of time at current workplace: 3.5 years.
            Number of times I have said some version of “Oh, I’m not straight” to people at my current workplace: countless.

              1. Sunshine*

                There is a beautiful Ivan Coyote poem which is an ode to the poet’s femme girlfriend. It includes the line:

                “I want to thank you for coming out of the closet. Over and over, again and again, for the rest of your life.”

          2. Calpurrnia*

            “wait, you both do your own laundry?” ….. I’m a (bi) lady in a (straight-passing) relationship with a guy, and we both definitely do our own laundry. My parents were both completely straight (as far as I ever knew), and they did their own laundry until my mom’s handicap got to be too much for her to do it herself. I’m not sure why people wouldn’t do their own laundry outside of a physical handicap, but maybe that’s just my limited experience speaking? I’ve been doing my own laundry since middle school, why would I stop? And what on Earth does that have to do with either of our sexualities or gender identities?!

            I’d be so tempted to respond with “uh, yes, we are both adult humans thanks”. This is such a weird leap of logic to me I can’t let it go. (My sincere apologies if this is too derailing!)

            1. SuperSally*

              Eh, I’m really lazy and forget to do laundry for ages. (I just buy more clothes to cope with it.) When my GF (now fiancée) lost her job, she picked this up as a task as a balance for me working and paying bills so that she felt she was contributing. It works for both of us – but I’ll admit me a little more. But if she didn’t, I would do my own, eventually.

          3. From the High Tower on the Hill*

            I definitely agree with you that would be a good script. My uncle and his husband went through something very similar to the LW at work years ago, unfortunately when being in the LGBTQA+ community was far less accepted at the time and his boss reacted negatively. Although many people do still hold those views, it has become far more accepted in recent years. If LW does want to make it more of a conversation than a quick correction, I think that contacting HR first to let them know your intentions in case there is any retaliation or something to that nature.

    3. Binky*

      I think this is a good plan. OP has sort of backed himself into a corner here. It’s untenable to keep up the charade with your boss that your fiance is a woman while other people in the office are aware that he’s a man. Someone is going to say something, or want to see wedding pictures, and the longer this goes on, the more your boss is going to feel embarrassed, no matter how open minded he may be. I understand the reticence to come out at work (I’ve dealt with it myself, albeit not in an environment that involves much religiosity) but I think your best bet is to control how it happens, since I don’t think you can prevent it from happening.

      Since you do have liberal coworkers that you’re friendly enough to introduce your fiance to, I would approach whomever you like best or whoever has the best relationship with the boss, lay the issue out and then ask for advice. I do think that breaking it to your boss casually, as if his ongoing mistake is not a big deal at all, is your best bet. The more comfortable you seem, the more comfortable he will be.

      1. Sally*

        I do think that breaking it to your boss casually, as if his ongoing mistake is not a big deal at all, is your best bet. The more comfortable you seem, the more comfortable he will be.

        I completely agree! And regarding the religious aspect, you might be surprised. I’m quite anti-organized religion, and I’m always afraid that religious people will be judgmental of me, and LOTS of times, they are not. I don’t come out to every religious person I encounter, but I have been pleasantly surprised much more often than not.

        1. Rosemary7391*

          This is very true. My church now has a gay minister – he brought his husband to the first service. A grand total of zero people made any noticeable fuss, and most welcomed both equally. Maybe the co workers who know could try and figure out attitudes without mentioning OP?

          1. Zillah*

            That’s super different, though, and I don’t think it’s a helpful analogy – that a church is willing to have a gay minister implies quite a lot about the culture of the church, and that’s information that the OP can’t have about his workplace.

        2. Blue Anne*

          Yeah. Sometimes it goes better than you’d think. Even my extremely religious ex mother in law was trying to figure out the actual stance on homosexuality in the Bible when she found out I was bi.

          (She decided it was okay, but gay sex was not, because penetration. Didn’t have the heart to enlighten her. She was really trying to be accepting.)

        3. Mimi Me*

          Was coming here to say that. I recently went to a church fair (I am not religious, but was with a friend who attends said church). There was a basket raffle and the basket I won was filled with Gay Pride items – flags, books, clothing, movies, etc. My daughter, who is bi-sexual and very anti-religion, was shocked when I walked into the house carrying the basket. :)

          1. BekaAnne*

            So, my aunt is super, super religious – first names with every minister, bishop, pope religious in the Roman Catholic vein.

            She is homophobic to a massive degree and almost fainted when I told her that I was marrying a woman. She’s pressing hard for us to have a church service or a Christian blessing as part of our wedding, which in the RC faith is very, very forbidden.

            She’s called me a deviant on many occasions but I’ve given her the choice of supporting it or not coming to the wedding (and as I’m inviting some of her friends) and having the community know that she is homophobic.

            Amazingly, she is literally the only person who has given us crap about getting married. Literally everyone else we have talked to has been really happy for us. I was waiting for the other boot to drop but the only boot is really my aunt.

            My job is literally the first job I’ve had where I’ve been out and have management totally behind me to report if anyone is homophobic to them and they’ll have my back. It’s actually weird for me to be out at work (mid 30’s and working for the guts of 15 years in various jobs). I’m not in the US, but I’m from a very conservative small town in Ireland that always had racist and homophobic leanings.

            1. Dr Wizard, PhD*

              Just giving a quick wave to a fellow Irish LGBT+ person! I’m glad you’re in a supportive situation at work; I am too. Things do seem to be getting better here, even in more traditionally conservative parts of the country.

        4. Solo*

          Yeah, agreed. I have a teammate who’s one of the most religious people I’ve known in my adult life. Having been raised in a family/community that was overwhelmingly fundamentalist evangelical with all its attendant homophobia and transphobia, I was pretty wary, but as I got to know him better it turned out we saw eye-to-eye on a lot of issues. He was one of the first peers that I came out as trans to (although I think he’d guessed that I was trans before that) and he has been a solid workplace ally without the handwringing weirdness that sometimes comes along with that.

        5. Alton*

          Also, I think a lot of people naturally want to avoid conflict. Workplace discrimination is a very real concern, but even among religious people who *do* hold homophobic views, a lot of them may feel that they’re able to separate those views from how they treat people (“hate the sin, love the sinner”) or may try to avoid the topic because they don’t want to get into conflict at work.

          This doesn’t mean that their reactions can’t lead to exclusionary behavior or covert discrimination. Or that working with people who secretly think you’re a sinner is a nice position to be in. But it may not come up in a way that’s any worse than the present situation.

          But also, like you point out, being religious doesn’t always mean being homophobic, either.

          1. Not Rebee*

            My religious coworkers who I’ve come out to have either not cared at all or have fallen into a “hate the sin, love the sinner” category. I’ve been very lucky to never have anyone make a huge fuss about my coming out, even within my family the biggest reaction was just my grandma trying to understand the whole thing. I understand that there are truly bad reactions out there, but people I’ve told are mostly accepting.

          2. Cheryl Blossom*

            “Love the sinner hate the sin” rhetoric is pretty damaging, mostly because it occurs among people who believe being gay is a choice.

            1. Alton*

              It’s extremely damaging and I won’t voluntarily spend time with people who espouse it. But I think in a work context, some people might find that easier to deal with than the uncertainty of how people will react.

              I’ve reached a point where whenever I come out and I see that look on someone’s face that they’re uncomfortable, I just feel pity for them. I wouldn’t want to work with people like that, but if I did…well, sucks to be them.

            2. Jennifer Juniper*

              Ex-Christian bisexual here. We were taught that there were two options for LGBT people: lifelong celibacy or opposite-sex marriage. It wasn’t the orientation itself that was sinful. It was ever acting on the urges which was sinful.

              NOTE: I was a teenage fundamentalist at the time. I grew up.

        6. Queer Anon*

          So I’m glad you’ve had that experience and that folks who’ve replied to you have as well. I just wanted to put a voice out there validating the LW’s concerns– there’s a lot of messaging these days (particularly in the States since the SCOTUS decision) that people are accepting now and you should just come out and everything’ll be fine, and I’m not really sure where that originates from because coming out (especially to religious people) can absolutely still be incredibly dangerous, and there has in fact been an increase in the number of hate crimes in the past couple years.

          LW, my advice to you as a fellow queer person is to make sure you know if there are anti-discrimination laws in your area that cover sexual orientation. Don’t feel any obligation to come out to your boss, but maybe mention to your coworkers that you’re not comfortable being out to your boss yet– that’s just how it goes sometimes and I see that as practicality, not deceit. Good luck!

          1. Zillah*

            This. It’s wonderful that some commenters have bumped into tolerant religious people or places of worship, but that experience is far from universal, and while not all religious people are homophobic, IME the majority of very homophobic people hide behind religion.

            1. whingedrinking*

              Yup. I was raised in a church of the “Jesus was a progressive” school of thought and was extremely astonished to learn, when I started looking outside of that community, that the wider cultural perspective was Christianity is a contest about who can hate the most people. (You should hear my dad’s rage about Jeff Sessions. “You do not get to quote Matthew 22:21 when Caesar is YOU!”) I get that for people who sincerely believe that their faith commands them to be loving and accepting, it stings to be lumped in with intolerant assholes and told that their faith is the problem. Unfortunately, saying “We’re not all like that” doesn’t help when the ones who are like that are so numerous and so powerful. If you want to make a difference, don’t tell queer people Christianity is not homophobic. Tell it to the homophobes.

            2. Loose Seal*

              I was told just yesterday that I shouldn’t be so militant about being protective of my bisexuality and what it means to exist in my life. They urged me to ‘live and let live.’ I told them that it’s easy to be peaceful when you’re in the majority. When you’re not, *everything* is an issue that you have to decide whether or not to take on. It’s exhausting.

              I totally get why OP is feeling this so strongly. But any suggestions from me are going to be heavily laced with admonition to be careful with your safely, both personal and financial. If you were living where I live now, I’d tell you to cautiously go ahead and slide the correct pronouns into conversation even though there aren’t state laws for non-discrimination of sexual identity here. But if you lived where my hometown is, I’d tell you to never disclose because you’d be harassed out of your job. So it’s hard to be specific.

              1. Loose Seal*

                So Alison, I know things sometimes go into moderation because of Internet gremlins or what have you but I’m wondering if there’s a word I use in this post that made it go in. I hope it’s not because I used ‘bisexual’ or ‘sexual’ but those are the only words I can see that might be in a filter program. Can you manually adjust your filter terms and, if so, could you check to see that LGBTQIA terms aren’t filtered into moderation?

                Unless this is just gremlins. Then all I can do is recommend you don’t get them wet and don’t feed them after midnight.

          2. anon teacher*

            THIS. Like, yeah, coming out is great and all, but you don’t owe anybody ANY information about your personal life, and if you don’t want to tell your boss, that is 100% your prerogative. Your safety and comfort come first, always.

        7. Pipe Organ Guy*

          I work for an extremely progressive Episcopal church. My husband has been a member of this parish for, well, just about his whole life. Among other roles, I’m the organist (how’s that for fitting a stereotype?). We have quite a few LGBT members here. I have to say, I’m living in a wonderful bubble that I never thought could come about, and I’m grateful, because my being gay is a non-issue.
          I would hope that for the OP, gently correcting the misunderstanding that his fiancé is female would go well, because that correction really needs to happen before someone does it unbidden for the OP.

      2. Stormfeather*

        The only problem at this point with the subtle approach is that the OP is afraid he’s going to take a ding on his ethics, which are apparently especially important to his field. Since he’s let the confusion stand for so long (and actively perpetuated it by carefully only using gender-neutral terms), as awkward as it is, it might be his best bet to just have the tough conversation with his boss at some point, leading with “I’m sorry I let this impression stand so long but I was honestly worried about reactions, and it’s not something I’m comfortable talking about, but…”

        Not saying btw that the OP is a horrible person for lying by omission or whatever. Coming out is hard, especially in various areas of the country. So I guess it all comes down to just how worried about his ethical reputation he is from this, and if he just feels uncomfortable with coming out because of people judging him and possibly being less friendly (which is the impression I got, and again not saying that isn’t important in itself) or actively feels unsafe from it, just how bad he thinks the reactions are going to be… yeah, it’s tough to just armchair analyze. If he does feel actively unsafe or the possible repercussions of being outed as gay are going to be too severe, he should probably just pull aside the people who already know and discuss it with them. But I’m assuming that’s probably not the case since coming out is on the table at all, and some of the co-workers already know.

        1. Jerry*

          His boss would have to be remarkably culturally tone-deaf to ‘ding’ his ethics for this. As much as we’d prefer it not to be, it’s still a big deal, and it’s not a professional or personal betrayal to not reveal this private part of his life.

          1. Nita*

            Yes, IMO this is really not an ethics thing, certainly nothing to do with workplace ethics. That’s not to say the boss would see it this way and be reasonable about the situation – the bit about being misled by omission, and/or the bit about OP’s sexuality. OP may be worried because there are subtle signs the boss would not take coming out well.

            Of course, it’s also possible OP is worried for no good reason. I tend to do that myself – drive myself mad with worry about what my boss will think about things in my life (admittedly, things that do affect my ability to work), despite my worries being unfounded time and time again.

        2. Random Thought*

          Agree with this generally; except I’m not sure about saying “I was worried about reactions” — because I think it will put Boss on the defensive (i.e. “why would you be worried? Do you think I’m not inclusive” etc.). I think it would be fine to say, “I’m really not comfortable discussing my sexuality at work, but I didn’t want you to feel misled”

        3. Totally Minnie*

          This doesn’t feel like an ethics violation to me. It feels more like that episode of Friends where one of Chandler’s coworkers has been calling him the wrong name for years because Chandler didn’t correct him the first time, and now it’s gone on long enough to be awkward.

            1. Quackeen*

              Or retained but passed over for interesting work, promotions, bonuses, etc.—staying on this side of legality but still applying workplace perqs and opportunities unevenly.

            2. JSPA*

              The marriage will be a matter of public record. There will presumably be pictures, on facebook and elsewhere.

              Unless you plan on filming “Cage aux Folles IX–the whole rest of our lives,” boss will find out. You have some modest control as to when, and how embarrassing it is for him to have been wrong for so long.

              With that in mind, and a firm, clear-eyed assessment of how hosed you’ll be, if you’re fired, you should probably poll those co-workers who are in the know, and have been there longer, whether it’s better to have plausible deniability by doing a sotto voce pronoun shift (which he can register or not, either at the time or after the fact, when he’s ready to have heard it); whether it’s almost certainly no big deal; whether you need to keep being distracted and not notice the boss’s pronouns until you have your escape fund salted away; or whether it’s paradoxically safer to go full political, and point out to the boss that the reason he’s confused is that you have trained yourself to be scrupulously pronoun-hidden in the workplace, due to your state laws.

              (Sometimes directly pointing out to your boss that they could fire you for whom you’re marrying emphasizes that you have great trust in your boss–and even if they’d otherwise have fired you on a pretext, they now feel blocked from taking that step. It’s certainly not guaranteed–don’t do this if you’re one or two paychecks away from being on the street!–but I’ve seen in work in some deeply unlikely situations.)

              AAM is great, and fellowship is lovely, but internet hugs don’t pay the bills. You actually probably already know the full range of what can happen. You can’t really learn much more about that here–“the plural of anecdote isn’t data.” You need feedback on your actual situation from someone who knows your actual boss.

      3. AVZ*

        I think your best bet is to control how it happens, since I don’t think you can prevent it from happening.

        Agreed. I think this is a case of not “if” but “when” — and “how”! Your boss knows you’re engaged, some of your coworkers know your fiancé is a man; it’s only a matter of time before your boss — and, frankly, the rest of your office — finds out as well. And if that’s the case, they might as well find out on your terms.

        If you want your boss to know but not the rest of the office, at least for now, can you casually tell him that actually, your fiancé is a man, but you’d rather not share that with the whole office and ask that he keep it to himself? You could frame it as simply wanting to keep your private life private, if that feels more comfortable… I guess it depends on your relationship with him.

        I am sure that the rest of the office will find out eventually, though, given how much info is already out there — so I think you’re better off casually breaking the news to them on your own terms. It could be as simple as “oh, Taylor’s actually a ‘he'” or referring to him w/ male pronouns or whatever else; it doesn’t need to be a big announcement… Ultimately, you can’t control what they think or say about you, but if you present it as not a big deal that may well guide them in the right direction. And good luck!

    4. Milksnake*

      This is how I’ve always handled it. I usually get a “Oh, sorry!” or they just go along with it to avoid the embarrassment of assumption.

      OP, I know you’re worried about how some people may respond but in my experience I think it’s more exhausting to try and hide it from some people and keep a mental list of everyone who knows and who doesn’t. You don’t need to make an announcement, it’s your normal, just treat it as such. Next time it comes up with you boss maybe a simple “Actually Taylor is a man, sorry for any confusion.”

    5. The Cardinal*

      +++100. If one feels the need to discuss one’s relationship and the upcoming nuptials in the work place to begin with (which is quite common, so there is nothing wrong with this at all!!!), then one should consider being to be truthful in a matter of fact sort of way even if it’s in a limited one on one “hey, by the way…” quick conversation with the boss.

      Although one’s personal life is absolutely no one else’s business, when one introduces a personal topic like this, many if not most people tend to make default assumptions along “traditional” points of view (i.e., not really thinking in a way that considers the possibility of anything other than a one woman/one man relationship more out of habit rather than any deliberate intent to slight, malign, ormake some kind of statement of disapproval), so is it really much of a surprise that the boss (or many others who are aware of your upcoming nuptials) would comment in this way?

      BTW, congratulations!

      1. Flower*

        Do people really continue to usually make default assumptions? My partner/fiance and I are both cis and he’s straight/I’m straight-passing, and because I primarily use “partner” and sometimes “fiance” to refer to him, the majority of people I work with/around/am introduced to socially/am a student with either explicitly ask for his pronouns or first use “they” (“Yeah, I wanted to be in this area because it’s ideal for my partner” “Oh, what do they do?” “He does [type of work x]” “Oh yeah, this part of the country is really good for his line of work.”).

        The first time or two I was appreciative but I guess I’ve gotten so used to it that I no longer expect anything else.

        1. Story Nurse*

          In my experience, this is a generational thing. Many people younger than about 30 will use “they” as a neutral default and not think twice about it, and will flow smoothly with whatever pronouns are eventually provided. Most people older than 50, including those who mean very well, will not. (I’m 40, with a male partner and a nonbinary partner, so I get to see both in action.)

        2. Person from the Resume*

          Yes. College is much more liberal and aware of the possibility. The business world especially a conservative one is not and will assume heteronormativity.

          But you using the term “partner” is also a clue. These conservative co-workers or simply people not immersed in queer culture are much more likely to use gendered terms for their partner like gf/bf, wife/husband. If the LW had used partner instead of fiancée it might have clued the CEO in to ask.

          1. Flower*

            I’m a grad student in the life sciences (which also tends to be more liberal in general), but it does mean that fellow students can be any age (though are most commonly somewhere in their 20s) and coworkers can be and are any age.

          2. KTB*

            I wouldn’t necessarily assume that partner is the default for non-heterosexual relationships. Plenty of straight, nonmarried couples use partner as a replacement for gf/bf, which can sound somewhat juvenile when applied to a longtime partnership that isn’t a marriage. On the flip side of that, plenty of same sex couples use gendered gf/bf, wife/husband.

        3. many bells down*

          A friend of mine has this problem even though his fiance doesn’t have anything close to a neutral name. Early in their engagement he had this conversation:
          Him: So my fiance and I …
          Co-worker: Oh right you’re engaged! What was her name again?
          Him: … Steven.
          Co-worker: Oh that’s an unusual name, go on …

          1. Person from the Resume*

            LOL! A friend told a story about how a colleague heard her talk about her partner Rhonda at lunch for months, but heard “Ron” and assumed she was a man because that’s just the way things were in that conservative kid’s brain. Unless hit on the head with it, he assumed straight.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              Is it not immediately obvious to anyone else exactly how this happened?

              “I went to a movie last weekend with Ron, duh.”

              “Ron, duh, said we’re free tomorrow to get coffee with you and Mike.”

              “I was at the mall with Ron, duh, and we found the cutest duvet set!”

              Poor kid just needed subtitles. :(

          2. Flower*

            … Ouch. I mean, I’ve known female “Stevies” and knew a female Kyle (who frequently had issues around others assuming she was a boy and then man as we grew up). That’s a bit rough though.

        4. wordswords*

          Yes, plenty do. In my experience, this depends a LOT on generation, culture, subculture, region, etc. I’ve worked/studied/chatted with people who definitely default to non-gendered language (“are you seeing anyone?” “what does your partner do?”) and with people who definitely do not (“do you have a boyfriend?” or doing that doubletake of mental recategorization when I drop a mention of queerness).

          Part of the reason my girlfriend and I say “girlfriend” rather than “partner” despite having been together for several years is to avoid that default assumption of straightness. I’m a relatively private person in some ways, but for various reasons I like to be relatively upfront about that. If I were in a situation where I felt the need to be more closeted, I would definitely switch to “partner” and using “we” and such a lot to let people’s default assumptions glide on by.

        5. DCR*

          I don’t like this about myself and am trying to work on it. But, to be honest, I would assume an opposite sex partner for the word fiancé and would be unsure, but think it may be a same sex person, if someone used the work partner.

          1. DCR*

            And I’m in my mid-30s. To be fair to myself, I really wouldn’t care what the gender was. But I still have that assumption I’m trying to overcome in my head.

            1. Lissa*

              I’m mid 30s too and NOT straight, and still make the assumption in certain environments too, ie not with my LGBTQ circle of friends. It’s so weird too, I don’t mean to do it but it’s very ingrained. Like if I see a man and woman working together something in my brain thinks it’s likely they’re together, even though I hang out with my male platonic best friend all the time! And when I have to actually interact I would never make a verbal assumption but I realized it’s still there.

              1. Stormfeather*

                TBF, statistically you’re more likely to be right if you assume a straight partner. I think the main issue is with not being completely attached to that assumption, not getting defensive if it’s wrong, etc.

                Of course, it’s also great if we can manage NOT to make the assumptions. But I also catch myself doing it, not so much in a “oh this must be a guy” way, but a general picturing of the person as male in my head, so to speak.

                1. Lissa*

                  Yup that’s it exactly, if I’m in a situation where I have to think about it I don’t assume, but our brains don’t tend to think about every last detail, but fill things in all the time without us consciously realizing it and those defaults are hard to change. It’s why things like unconscious bias are so huge – it really doesn’t have anything to do with whether you feel hate in your heart or not, so much of it is happening on a level we aren’t aware of.

          2. Flower*

            Actually, that’s a good point. I think I’ve had more people assume male pronouns when I said “fiance” as opposed to partner (but I so very rarely use fiance anyway – he’s my life partner, the transitory temporary stages of our relationship are irrelevant. I did tell him I would try to get used to “husband” when we get to that point).

        6. Danners*

          When someone says “partner” to me it is like a cue to use a gender neutral term, because when I was growing up that was like the “code word” people used when they were gay and it was very confusing to me as I got older that lots of people use it, regardless. But it’s still there in my brain, if someone says “partner” my brain usually goes to gender neutral. And despite being friends with lots of people across the spectrum I do often still make assumptions along “traditional” lines, despite my efforts not to.

        7. Not Rebee*

          It’s probably “partner”. Not a ton of straight people use that one because they don’t have to protect themselves as much as queers do (the use of partner or other gender neutral terms is pitched as inclusion, and it is that, but it’s also a means of protection so that we can control as much as possible who knows and who doesn’t with the intention of limiting their exposure to bad and dangerous reactions). And honestly, as a 20-something in California I don’t hear a lot of people using gender neutral terms unless they are queer themselves and are doing it for the reason mentioned above. I’m not seeing a largescale adoption of gender neutral terms or asking for pronouns up front…

        8. iglwif*

          Oh, yes, they absolutely do.

          Not all people, not all the time, but I see it pretty often–and I live in a big multicultural liberal city, in a province where marriage equality has been a thing for a decade and a half.

          I do think those assumptions are dying out–when my 16yo is getting to partner-having age, I bet she’ll get a lot less of them–but they are absolutely still a thing one encounters.

      2. ofotherworlds*

        I would usually assume someone’s ‘partner’ is the same sex as they are unless I was told otherwise. It’s realtively uncommon for unmarried but committed straight couples to use partner terminology in Ohio. It’s become more common since straight people lost their monopoly on husband/wife, but it’s still unusual.

        1. Flower*

          That’s also interesting. I guess it makes sense though, and I’ve heard it before. Personally, I hate the way saying the word “boyfriend” makes my mouth feel (I know, it’s weird), but I also see boyfriend/girlfriend terminology as more… transitory? Like either the relationship will at some point end, or the couple will move to “another stage”. At the very start, I called him my “person” for a bit (mostly before we were truly a couple and there was no better word), and then shifted to “partner” because he became my life partner, regardless of other transitory stages of our relationship (long distance, living together unmarried, now engaged…) Through all of that, he’s the person I choose to have influence over the shape of my life, you know? The person by my side through life’s ups and downs.

          That sounded sappier than I intended, but oh well.

      3. JM60*

        “then one should consider being to be truthful”

        The OP has been truthful. He’s not obligated to out himself to sometime just because he has mentioned his upcoming wedding (which can easily come up at other people’s prompting) and because his boss makes the wrong assumptions. That’s not information that the boss is entitled to know.

    6. kittymommy*

      I like this approach. Working the gendered pronoun into a casual conversation (“Taylor and I are going the concert in the park this weekend. He really likes this musician.”) is actually a method I’ve seen work, favorably, a few times both in an office setting and in a personal setting.

    7. nnn*

      Building on this, if you are ready to come out to your boss and don’t mind coming out to the rest of your co-workers, you can start gendering Taylor at every opportunity that comes up in conversation.

      If someone expresses surprise that he’s male, respond the way you would if there’s something else awesome about him that you were never ever keeping secret but it just hadn’t come up in conversation, and it never occurred to you that your boss didn’t know that. (For example, he’s an Olympic athlete)

    8. SierraSkiing*

      (LGBT reader here) Seconding pronoun replacement. It’s the most subtle and low-drama way to come out in a setting with mixed levels of LGBT friendliness, and it doesn’t require a response from the other person. If he’s homophobic but professional, he will probably just never mention your fiance again. (Awkward but better than some stuttered homophobic comment.) It sounds like the ship has sailed on staying in the closet at work: since people know you’re engaged, they will keep asking questions about your fiancee, the wedding, etc. Even if everyone who already knows the fiance is a guy are perfect allies and don’t gossip (somewhat unlikely), keeping it from everyone else will be really difficult without some serious social contortions.

      Also, OP, I’m so sorry that you have to deal with this in the workplace. I was lucky enough to be in a pretty liberal workplace when I got engaged, so I got to enjoy a lot of the same workplace support and energy that straight people generally get. I live in a red area, though, so I sometimes have to play the pronoun game in social settings.

    9. Totally Minnie*

      I like this approach, too. OP, now that some of your teammates know, can you ask them to help you make this as casual as possible? Maybe start having some low key conversations about Taylor and throwing in some he/him pronouns like it’s the most natural thing in the world? You say they’re supportive and they like both you and your fiance, so I think they’d be on board with helping you out.

    10. the elephant in the room*

      I fee like this is the best route. OP doesn’t want to come out to his boss. This allows him to be honest without being explicit. If his boss continues to misgender the fiancé, then it won’t be because OP was deceitful.

      1. JM60*

        The OP was never dishonest or deceitful by not outing himself to his boss, as he has no obligation to out himself to his boss. The boss has no right to that information. The reaction of a decent person in the boss’s position, if/when they find out about the gender of the OPs fiance, would be, “I’ve made the wrong assumption,” not, “He has been dishonest with me.”

    11. Gay and Afraid*

      I think this would be great, but my concern is that I don’t really want people in my office to know about my sexuality at all. I guess that ship has sailed, but I’ve let my boss believe that I’m straight for long enough to where I would feel obligated to have a more in-depth discussion with him.

      1. Ramalamadingdong*

        Unfortunately, that ship sailed when you Facebook friended coworkers/made public social media posts indicating your sexuality.

    12. Clytia*

      Yeah, this is what I’ve done in the past, when people have asked about my significant other/boyfriend/husband or so, when I was still married to my ex-wife (I’m a bi cis-woman). I’d just change the gender pronoun or term used when I responded. Then again, I was also out pretty much immediately to everyone and anyone I’ve worked with (still am, really), and I frequently mention my ex-wife, current/ex-boyfriends, so while I tend to pass for straight, once I open my mouth that doesn’t last for long. An ex-bf once told me “you’re probably the gayest person I know” which he found weird, considering I was with him, a guy.
      But yes, subtle correction, even if it takes a few times for it to stick. Also, letting your boss overhear you telling your coworkers about something you did with your fiance the night/weekend before (a yummy meal he cooked, a movie you saw together), making sure to use “he” a lot… might help…

  3. Justme, The OG*

    Your personal life is just that – personal. You choosing not to disclose your sexual orientation to your boss is not deceitful.

        1. SometimesALurker*

          “Lying” to me suggests that OP has some obligation to give his boss the full truth. He doesn’t.

        2. Oranges*

          So would it be if I was hiding someone from an abusive spouse.

          The LW gets to decide which risks they’ll take and bedammed anyone who thinks that they get to choose for him.

        3. JM60*

          No it isn’t. It’s the fault of the boss for making such an assumption, the OP never made any statement (so far as I know from this letter) that would mislead the boss into thinking that he was engaged to a woman, and the OP has no obligation to out himself to him.

        4. OhNo*

          It’s really not. You don’t have to announce your sexuality, or your gender, or your partner’s gender, every time someone assumes facts not in evidence.

          Any ethical implications in this situation should be on them for making the assumption in the first place.

        5. smoke tree*

          I really disagree that deciding not to out yourself is deceitful. Other people aren’t entitled to that information and sometimes you’ve got to make that calculation to stay employed/stay safe. However I think there is the danger that the boss will see it this way if someone else tells him, so if I were the LW, I’d consider telling him proactively.

        6. Rainy*

          Well, no, it’s not. Am I lying by omission if I don’t run around weekly reminding everyone I’m not straight?

        7. General Ginger*

          It really isn’t. OP doesn’t have to come out to anyone if he doesn’t want to. It’s not a requirement that he do so.

        8. Hey Nonnie*

          It’s not lying to keep your private life out of the office. Everyone has a right to privacy, and everyone has a right to decide just what “privacy” means for them.

          And even if you buy into the idea that this is “lying” (it isn’t, he doesn’t owe his boss any details at all about his private life), safety issues trump that, hands down. It would be nice if we all could survive by living in and having a job in places where there’s no risk in being out, but that’s not the real world, and we have to deal with the situation the way it is, not the way we wish it were.

        9. Observer*

          Why? This is a genuine question, by the way.

          Unless the OP is planning to bring his fiance to a company event, I don’t see that he has any obligation here – neither to divulge nor to hide this information. Allowing someone to fool themselves is only deceptive if that information is actionable or needed by the person who is fooling themselves.

          1. JM60*

            Even if he is planning to bring his fiance to a company event, he still doesn’t have an obligation to correct the boss’s assumption that the fiance is a woman.

        10. aebhel*

          Not really. Lying by omission kind of implies information that the other person has a right to, which this isn’t. By this logic, I’m lying by omission for not publicly announcing to my that I’m bi. Or that I’m mentally ill, or that I sometimes shoplifted in high school, or that I can’t drive a stick shift, or that I think some of my coworkers are really annoying, or than I’m an atheist, or that I write erotic fanfiction in my spare time, or any one of a dozen facts that might negatively affect their perception of me but have absolutely no bearing on my job.

        11. iglwif*

          I don’t see how? I don’t think OP owes his boss that information, any more than he would owe it to his boss to disclose his or his fiancé’s religion or ethnicity or like … height or weight. Or, in fact, the information that he has a fiancé in the first place. Most people share those kinds of things with their colleagues, at least after they’ve been around a while, but it’s not unethical to not share them, just unusual.

        12. Loose Seal*

          No. Is it lying by omission if the OP doesn’t mention that Taylor is blond? Or 7 feet tall? Or any other characteristic? Why should OP have to clarify everything upfront to get ‘honesty’ points?

        13. Sunshine*

          If he lied to the boss’ face that would be acceptable Alfonzo. Coming out in any circumstances can have serious consequences.

        1. Zillah*

          What assumptions, exactly?

          Lots and lots of people are homophobic and will treat you differently when they find out that you’re queer. In many states, you can be fired for being queer. Those are not assumptions; they are facts. Given those facts, queer people have to evaluate where situations fall, and many people choose to err on the side of caution – when the potential responses include violence, your livelihood, or being ostracized, a “it’ll probably be okay” doesn’t necessarily cut it.

        2. aebhel*

          That some people are homophobic? That’s not an assumption, that’s a fact. And being cautious about the possibility that the boss in question is one of them is not an assumption.

      1. Dadolwch*

        The issue here, as I see it, isn’t about the assumptions – it’s about the embarrassment and subsequent loss of trust that all sides will end up having to navigate once the inevitable truth does come out. As a spouse, I’m guessing that the HR department will become very much aware that OP’s spouse is male and very possibly could accidentally out him to his boss without realizing it wasn’t known. Not to mention that some of OP’s coworkers are already aware and are most likely wondering how they can help make this better.

        I don’t know what state the OP lives in and if there are state laws or the company has anti-LGBTQ discrimination policies, but my advice is to let your coworkers who are already in on the truth let the boss know he needs to correct his assumptions and that OP is having some real concerns about not being accepted for who he is at his workplace. It’s never fun to have to hide your true feelings and change pronouns with people who see and interact with every day.

    1. Lexi Kate*

      All this is true, but when you start bringing up your fiance in conversations and start facebook friending co-workers and some know and some don’t it starts to be deceitful. I think the OP either has to just refer to his fiance as him, and if anyone asks laugh it off and say they didn’t notice when they said her or stop talking about the fiance, block what co-workers can see and let people think the relationship is fizzling, then if they ask you can say you are not ready to discuss it.

      1. kittymommy*

        Yeah, this. It’s hard to maintain a private life is private stance once those lines start getting blurred with Facebook/social media. Especially if there is a realistic possibility of the two meeting (I’m thinking more at a work-social event rather than randomly).

      2. JM60*

        “but when you start bringing up your fiance in conversations and start facebook friending co-workers and some know and some don’t it starts to be deceitful.”

        No! Deceit would entail that the OP either told a mistruth, or omitted some truth that he had an obligation to give. He has no obligation to out himself to his boss (even if he’s out to others).

      3. anon today and tomorrow*

        No. This idea of deceit perpetuates such a bad image of LGBTQA+ identities. If I tell one or two coworkers about my sexuality, I am not obligated to tell everyone else in the department and I’m not being deceitful by not telling them.

        It’s really harsh and kind of blind to the struggles of LGBTQA+ people if you say concealing your sexuality from some people is deceitful. No one has to come out to others if they don’t want to.

        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          YES!

          This whole concept of deceit bothers me.

          In law school, I told some people I was bi because the topic just kinda came up organically in conversation. At that point, I didn’t then become obligated to run around the everyone else in the whole school to tell them I was bi. It was none of their damn business. And it certainly did not become their business just because a different person knew I was bi.

          Are straight people obligated to volunteer to every single person they meet that they are straight? No? So I am not obligate to come out to every damn person in the universe either. It is not “deceitful” to not run around volunteering information to everyone about my sexuality, EVEN IF some people are making assumptions about my sexuality.

          1. anon today and tomorrow*

            I feel like straight people – and some queer people – don’t understand that you can be proud of your sexuality, but you don’t have to tell everyone or shout it from the rooftops. It’s not hurting anyone if you only tell the people you want instead of everyone you meet, and claiming otherwise is a pretty terrible thing.

            1. Socks*

              Plus, often those very same people complain when you DO shout it from the rooftops, because it’s “making your sexuality your whole identity”, and “shoving it in our faces” and “making it harder for gay rights to be taken seriously”. You just… can’t win, as long as people keep thinking there’s some “correct” way for queer people to exist in public.

              1. anon today and tomorrow*

                Or, alternatively, they’re the ones who want to out everyone, which is a horrible, horrible thing to do to someone. You don’t get to take that away from a LGBTQA+ person and make it about yourself and your knowledge.

        2. Quackeen*

          It’s really harsh and kind of blind to the struggles of LGBTQA+ people if you say concealing your sexuality from some people is deceitful. No one has to come out to others if they don’t want to.

          Exactly! No one has the “right” to your narrative except for you!

        3. Hey Nonnie*

          It’s also not at all how relationships work.

          If, say, I’m going through a family crisis, there are some people that I would feel comfortable crying to/with/in front of, and telling them details of what’s going on. And there are many more people who would hear either nothing at all about it from me, or I’d only tell them the high-level overview (e.g. “my mom is sick,” as opposed to the details of the diagnosis, prognosis, treatments we have tried, symptoms and side effects she’s going through, and my feelings about it all).

          I am not being deceitful because I choose to share private things with some people and not with others. Literally everyone does this. We all have friends who are close confidants within our inner circle, and those who are only friendly acquaintances. We all choose what level of detail we share with the people we know. It’s not at all weird or dishonest to make those choices. I’m not going to attempt to make a close confidant out of literally everyone I meet (and I guarantee you most of them would resent me if I tried).

          This situation isn’t any different — and it’s really bizarre (and I think calls for some serious introspection) that you call it “dishonest” when LGBTQA+ people do it, but not when you do.

    2. Socks*

      Some people would absolutely see it as deceitful, especially if they’re already primed to think negatively about a person/situation due to homophobia (meaning they might automatically assume the worst rather than give that person the benefit of the doubt). If OP is concerned that he IS behaving unethically, then it’s worthwhile to reassure him that he is not, but if he’s concerned about appearances, I wouldn’t discount that. Some fields have way over the top standards of “ethical” behavior- teaching is a big one where you could be fired for behavior that other fields wouldn’t even blink at (a woman was recently fired for mentioning her female partner, in fact!). It’s a legitimate concern.

      1. Socks*

        Just realized my comment doesn’t have anything actionable in it- I wasn’t bringing this up to derail, I brought it up because I think advice focused around how people SHOULD react won’t necessarily work out for OP, and I think advice around minimizing negative reactions like accusations of deceit would be more helpful, if people have that.

        I mean, I don’t, I just keep my Facebook very bland and stay closeted to everyone who might ever talk to anyone who might ever employ me, but like. Maybe someone else knows how to do damage control.

    3. Person from the Resume*

      Choosing not to disclose sexual orientation is not deceitful.

      Talking about a fiancée and not correcting the person who assumed Taylor is a woman is getting close to deceitful. Misgendering Taylor to keep up the incorrect assumptions is deceitful coming soon if it hasn’t happened already.

      If LW didn’t want to disclose (a perfectly valid choice), he would have needed to keep a lot more personal information private like not mentioning a fiancée named Taylor and the upcoming wedding at all. Now that he’s done that and now that some co-workers know, I think the LW needs to admit that Taylor is a man. Damage control. It will be better for the LW to correct his CEO than an “in the know” co-worker to do it.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        Also I am gay and I work for the federal government which ((still)) has protections against discrimination of LGBTQ employees.

        I am not really out at work, but I work from home and am not currently in a relationship so it’s easy not to be out because I’d really have to wedge my sexuality into a conversation for it come up. There’s no water cooler talk with work from home, and I wouldn’t discuss casual dating with colleagues no matter my sexuality! I did mention my previous girlfriend to a few people when it came up naturally. I was doing a sort of unique activity that she was into so when asked why are you doing activity I mentioned my girlfriend. Those were individuals I trusted though and the work from home nature meant that there no gossip that I needed to worry about.

        Really I do what I recommend the LW do at his next work place which is not mention his personal life at all. At this point, though, that tactic is not available to him.

      2. Lady H*

        Yes, this. Straight allies, it’s hurtful to call self protective behavior deceitful and I’m disappointed to see it happening here.

        I have outed myself at work (by using same sex pronouns when talking about my partner) and been treated differently because of it. My manager and her boss were very religious and I was also the youngest person in the office in a conservative area. If I had known how I would be treated after coming out, I would have let them assume my partner was a man and tried to find another job. It surprised me that this was the case and I’m happy that in my current work with a conservative older boss to not feel at all judged but I definitely approached coming out to her very cautiously.

        For the OP, I would deliberate on a few things: is it important to the office culture (and yourself) that you share personal details? If it’s going to come up again and again then I’d be inclined to correct the record or I’d be reconsidering if this is the job for me.

        It sounds like your coworkers are welcoming to you — are you friendly enough with any of them to mention that you haven’t disclosed your orientation to everyone in the office because you’re not sure how it will be received and see what they say?

        I certainly think it’s preferable to be able to be out at work, but the decision to do so can be one of privilege. If you desperately need this job and the experience it brings, then it makes sense to proceed with caution. It’s so frustrating that it might be necessary to do so and I deeply appreciate everyone who takes the risk to come out because it helps us all, but it’s a personal choice and okay to choose not to be fully out.

        1. Lady H*

          Ugh, left this under the wrong comment. To be clear, “yes, this” refers to a comment above about this not being deceitful. I very much disagree that the OP is being deceitful in any way regardless of what they disclosed about their partner already.

          1. anon today and tomorrow*

            I can’t speak for Lady H, but I have met a number of straight allies who do hold the mindset that not declaring your sexuality is deceitful. In my experience, a good number of straight allies only acknowledge surface level LGBTQA+ issues and are pretty ignorant of the depths of issues we face. As in, they think everyone should be proud and out, but don’t understand how someone can be proud of their sexuality but still not want to tell every single person they meet.

          2. realjillyj*

            Speaking as someone who is bi, I assumed the people saying it was deceitful were straight because members of the LGBTQ community know how personal and difficult the coming out process is. It’s truly a process for many of us and I came out to different people at different times. I currently manage several gay employees and am out to them but have never spoken about my orientation to my managers. Some would be fine with it but I’m not sure how others would react and if it might impact my career. Whether or not I tell someone my orientation is my business.

          3. Anon for this*

            It’s far less likely a member of the community would call this deceitful or lying or all the other lovely terms being thrown around here. Why? Because we know how it feels and how it works. It reeks of straight privilege.

      3. boo bot (queerbot)*

        No, of course it’s not deceitful, and if the boss is decent about it, the OP could actually frame this in a way that leaves everyone feeling good, e.g., “Now that I’ve gotten to know all of you well, I feel comfortable telling you my fiance is actually a man.” Compliments in advance, thus encouraging everyone to live up to the best expectation.

        The key here is *if the boss is decent about it* which the OP has reason to believe he will not be. Which is why he didn’t say anything in the first place. So, your basic rational actor, behaving rationally.

    4. smoke tree*

      I agree as a general principle, but I think in this situation things may go more smoothly for the LW if he chooses when and how to come out to his boss rather than having it happen by accident. Based on the boss’s apparent enthusiasm about his fiance, and the fact that others in the office have met him, it seems fairly likely that the boss will find out somehow.

  4. caryatis*

    You can’t both disclose and not disclose. You could stop talking about your personal life, stop friending coworkers, stop discussing your wedding plans. But that sounds like a burden.

    1. Tehmorp*

      +1. I’m an LGBT+ person, and I don’t think it’s a good idea to be out to some people at work and place the burden on them to keep your secret. Obviously, it’s too late for this letter-writer, so I don’t think he has many options besides having more discretion going forward, and let whatever happens happen. It’s not a great position to be in, unfortunately.

        1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          Or intentionally, thinking they are doing the right thing (I could see a coworker thinking, “Oh, it must be really embarassing for OP to have the boss think Taylor is a woman. I’ll just let Bossman know so they don’t keep making the same mistake! I’m doing a FAVOR and showing how much of an ALLY I am.” That would still be wrong, but the person could frame it to themselves as being right.)

          Story time: We had a student a while back who was trans* and they presented as nonbinary/agendered (legal name change, our on-campus computer system showed both deadname and their name, preferred gender, etc). The deadname was undeniably feminine, the name I knew student as was a gender-neutral created name (trying to be as vague as possible here). A couple of my coworkers who had known this student pre-transition (using female name and female pronouns) would use their old pronouns and it never seemed to bother the student, but a newer coworker had met them once and made a comment while talking to myself, other coworker, and the student about “us women” understanding something. The student did not correct coworker, but I knew coworker was going off her assumption of student’s gender and would actually be embarrassed if she continued to misgender the student, so I told her later separately that it was my understanding that student preferred “they” for their pronouns. That was all I said, but my coworker appreciated it. I didn’t want to out the student and I weighed the options, but I also know that transgender teens and young adults have high rates of depression and self-harm related to the trauma of being misgendered their whole lives. While the student was not correcting people (I assume because they felt uncomfortable?) I wanted to try to support them without outright outing them.

          1. former foster kid*

            **waves in agender**

            that’s a really great way to handle the situation. i wish people i knew would kinda handle things in the background for me like that, rather than me having to go ‘actually…’ quite often. sometimes you just don’t have the spoons to risk anywhere from an unfriendly to violent reaction.

        2. MattKnifeNinja*

          Depending on how gossipy the office is, the boss already knows.

          I’ve worked where people troll through other coworkers social media, and share screen shots. These were teachers at elementary school. So the person you friend can overshare with someone who has no sense, and has no problems broad casting personal information.

      1. robot*

        I don’t think that’s quite true. I think in general, if you wanted to only be out to some people at work, that can be doable. But that probably works better when you tell them explicitly, and also you keep your personal life otherwise private while at work, so you don’t make people feel complicit in covering for you. To illustrate this, there are probably a lot of people who would be fine saying “Oh, I don’t know about OP’s life!” when their boss asks if you’re dating, even if they do know about your sexuality, but who would feel very differently about something that feels less like secrecy and more like outright deception. In this case, though, I’m not sure how you can comfortably resolve “the CEO already knows I have a fiance” without coming out.

        If you want to continue to ignore the CEO’s misapprehension, you probably need to tell everyone who knows explicitly that you do not wish to be out at work (and I think ultimately, there is a high risk that someone will out you, either because they are uncomfortable with maintaining this cover for you or because, well, people make mistakes).

        I think a good option might be seeking advice and context from one of the coworkers who already knows and is good at navigating the social stuff in your office. The wording downthread by Drop Bear about “Now, I’ve got to know everyone, I realize I was worrying for nothing” is a good possible option. I don’t think you are silly at all for worrying about consequences to being out, but behaving as though of course everyone will treat you well, because they’re all lovely and it is unthinkable that any of these wonderful people would treat you poorly might help encourage them to behave like the wonderful people you’re presenting them as.

      2. JM60*

        A lot of straight people don’t fully appreciate that coming out isn’t a one time event, but rather something gay people are doing all the time. It’s pretty common to go through something like what the OP is going through something similar to what the OP is going through for every new person who enters your life.

        1. Jess*

          Yes, absolutely. And each coming out can be fraught with its own unique social considerations to navigate!

      3. SierraSkiing*

        Yep, the cat’s out of the bag. At this point, the best thing OP can do is just out himself subtly in a way that doesn’t require a response (ie, pronoun replacement), and then not bring up the fiance unless someone asks. If someone has more professionalism than homophobia, they’ll generally just not mention the fiance, and work relationships will continue as before.

      4. General Ginger*

        I disagree. The advice we are often given before coming out at work is, try to find some supportive colleagues, come out to them, gauge their reaction, then maybe come out to the boss or the rest of the office.

        1. Cheryl Blossom*

          THIIIIS. Coming out to some people and not others is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, even at work.

          1. Zillah*

            This! Obviously, you have to be aware that if you come out to anyone, it might not stay between the two of you… but that’s true for literally anything you tell anyone, and it doesn’t tend to stop people from picking and choosing what other kinds of information they share with others. There’s no reason that coming out to a few people means coming out to everyone – for example, there are many, many queer people who are out to their immediate family but not to their extended family for years.

    2. Sparklehorse*

      I think having talked about your fiance at all means at some point you will need to specific that he’s a he, especially if your coworkers want to see wedding pictures. If you were uncomfortable coming out or fear for your job, you shouldn’t have mentioned anything about your romantic life at all.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes. I don’t think it works to have a secret that a third of the office is in on and two thirds isn’t. One of the people in the know is not going to realize that they can’t refer to OP’s fiance as “he” in front of certain other coworkers. With no malice whatsoever.

        I think having gone halfway OP needs to proactively go the extra mile and correct boss (gently, as in the first comment) the next time it occurs. I think it’s one of those things where guessing wrong on boss’s part isn’t a big deal (he played the averages) but it risks becoming bigger and bigger, as the correction becomes not the second time it comes up, but the 72nd time.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      It’s also a bit like closing the barn door once the horse has escaped. Some coworkers know. That means it will likely make it’s way around.

      1. LesbiAnon*

        Not if the coworkers that have been told are trustworthy. And believe me, figuring out/deciding who is trustworthy enough to tell is something we put a lot of thought into.

    4. Person from the Resume*

      Yes. You need to come out now. I understand that you don’t want to, but it’s too late now.

      If you wanted to not be out at work you would have needed to never mention Taylor or a fiancée or an upcoming wedding. Given that some co-workers know him and friended him on Facebook, it’s even too late for a fake breakup so you never have to mention Taylor or dating at work again.

      It sucks, but the way to be closeted with the least amount of lying is to limit talking about your personal life and your partner. You can obfuscate by calling your boyfriend a roommate or friend when you’re giving minimal information about what you might have done that weekend. Once you start sharing your partner’s info but hide his gender, it’s getting into a complicated web of lies.

      1. Lexi Kate*

        You can’t and shouldn’t tell someone to come out, this is on the same realm as telling someone with a sinus infection that they must take ammoxicillian. This is the OP’s choice and will affect everything going forward. You can tell what you think would help them most but not demand that they come out.

        There are always choices.

        1. Daisy*

          Strange nitpicky comment. Obviously everything everyone says here is ‘what you think would help them most’, I don’t think Person From The Resume needs to preface every statement with ‘my advice is…’ to make that clear. He’s not ‘forcing’ OP to come out, how could he?

          1. Zillah*

            No, but there’s giving advice with sensitivity and with the acknowledgment that there are things about the situation that you’re not privy to. The alternatives to “Don’t tell the OP he needs to come out” are not limited to prefacing every statement with “my advice is…”

          2. Courageous cat*

            Yeah but with this topic, advice should probably be delivered with an extra dose of sensitivity, especially from straight people. Words really matter here.

      2. Lioness*

        Um. No. You don’t get to tell someone they have to come out now. It’s not your place to decide that. We don’t know if the coworkers will share, but it’s not always required to share with everyone especially if you don’t know if there will be repercussions.
        Is this a stare with protective LGBTQ+ laws? Will it affect future promotions?
        So no, he doesn’t need to come out if he doesn’t want to.

        1. Person from the Resume*

          I really appreciate you nitpicking my word choice Lioness. NOT!

          Given the situation where the LW has been talking about his fiancée in the office and some of his colleagues know his fiancée is a man, but his CEO has obviously assumed his fiancée is a woman and has talked to LW about “her,” I highly recommend that LW come out to his CEO before he is outted by a colleague (either accidentally or on purpose). It is best that the LW control the narrative and inform the CEO in a way that reduces any embarrassment on the CEO’s part.

          Additionally I can only presume that LW’s fiancée will become his husband before too long. if the LW chooses to talk about his “spouse” or “partner” instead of using gendered nouns there’s a good chance this will lead to someone realizing that their assumption has been wrong. Also it sounds like the kind of office that would press to see photos of the wedding.

          So I’m recommending the LW come out to the CEO soon at a time of his own choosing before he’s forced out of the closet through some slip up or reveal.

          It’s possible to fake hetero wedding photos and come up with stories of his wife “Taylor” but given that some colleagues know Taylor is a man this is a terrible idea.

          1. Sunshine*

            A lot of these comments are making out like OP’s boss has some sort of right to this information. I couldn’t care less if one of my employees / colleagues was gay and didn’t want to disclose. It’s literally none of my business and given that people still get fired for being gay I would absolutely understand their reasoning.

      3. Gay and Afraid*

        Hi it’s the letter writer – you’re taking some heat for this comment but for what it’s worth I think it’s reasonable advice. I’m getting a sinking feeling in my stomach that it might be my best outcome to come out to my boss.

        1. River*

          It’s not necessarily the best advice. If your gut tells you no, maybe listen to it. I’ve had very open workplaces that were ok with me being gay but I’ve just entered a new one having literally just got married days earlier and I have told only one person so far. For everyone else I am going to bide my time, guage reactions to conversations about LGBTI issues and wait until I feel comfortable. The only time I had a bad reaction to me coming out was the one time my gut was screaming “no”.

        2. River*

          It is ok to take your time. The time to come out is when it feels right for you. When you do though, I find what has worked best for me is to do it with complete nonchalance. The rest of the time you can completely get away with not using pronouns.

    5. Rebecca*

      I agree. You can either be out or not, but staying closeted involves not talking about much of anything in your personal life (which is a perfectly reasonable choice if there’s really anything in your life that you don’t want your coworkers to have input on).

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        I agree with this. I haven’t been closeted at work in years, but when I was I only ever referred to my then-girlfriend as my roommate or a friend and never talked about dating or anything. If you’re going to talk about being engaged, you have to be willing to talk about the person you’re engaged to, or you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to keep track of who knows what and whether you’ve made a slip that reveals too much. As OP has discovered the hard way.

        It’s possible to be out to only a few coworkers, but you have to give them a heads up that you’re not out widely. I have a couple of coworkers who didn’t come out to me until after I came out to them, and I am discreet about bringing up anything about personal lives with that person in front of others. And since I’m also gay (and therefore used to that self-monitoring) and my office isn’t an oversharing one, that’s easy for me to do.

        But when you’re closeted, telling some people and asking them to keep it a secret from other people they see and interact with every day is kind of dragging them into the closet with you. They now have to police their own speech and actions to keep your secret, and that’s not something to ask of others lightly. And the more the office is all friendly together, and the larger the number of people who know compared to those who don’t, the bigger an ask it is.

        I agree with those saying that at this point OP’s best bet is probably to come out to the boss and hope for the best. Good luck, OP!

  5. A*

    I feel for you, LW! I have been in your exact situation and am grateful to now be in a work environment where I can be authentic and I’m even not the only queer staff person at my small org. However, when I was working in a conservative religious environment, I just kept my personal life to myself and if people asked/made assumptions I let them. You don’t owe anybody anything and you aren’t being unethical by being private when you are worried about your job security if you were to be more specific about your relationship!

    If I were you, I’d consider talking to your coworkers who you are out to and asking how they think you should proceed. They may have information about your manager or the workplace as a whole that could help you make an informed decision. It does seem like the info may get around eventually, at which point you may have the chance to be direct and say “I was worried it would jeopardize my standing here if I were honest, so when senior staff members made assumptions I didn’t correct them. Now that everyone is aware, I hope we can move forward without any conflict. I prefer to keep my work and personal life separate.”

    I wish you the best of luck! I hope you are met with affirmation and kindness no matter what.

    1. Drop Bear.*

      I’d be inclined to leave out the moving forward part of that – may be taken as confrontational perhaps? Perhaps something like, ‘Now, I’ve got to know everyone, I realise I was worrying for nothing’. This puts pressure on them to live up to that ‘trust’ – if that makes sense.
      I wish you luck LW: I’m fortunate to live and work in a place where this wouldn’t be an issue so I have no specific advice on what to do, but I do agree with others that it will come out eventually and that it is perhaps best if you can manage that process in a safe way (how awful it is that there is actually the chance of an unsafe ‘option’!) rather than let it happen willy nilly.

      1. Just Another Techie*

        Agreed on the wording here. The wording in A’s post struck me as way too confrontational as well.

    2. Myrin*

      I always advocate for people in difficult situations seeking help from their coworkers, so I’m really liking this advice a lot!

    3. jb*

      This is good advice.

      The OP is under no obligation to out himself to a homophobic manager, but it’d sure be easier on him if he could out himself in this case. So it behooves the OP to figure out whether the manager would react badly.

      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        There’s no obligation to out one’s self. Genders and sexual orientations can be mentioned or not.
        I am on team “hey, just start using correct pronouns and let the boss figure it out quietly on their own…”

        But here’s another thing … let’s say that the manager is normally judgmental of gay people. It might be because they didn’t know they knew any gay people. Calmly and non-apologetically letting the correction happen, without glitter and rainbows exploding all over the room, may be just what that manager needs to re-consider their position on the subject.

        Now that the manager knows you, it’s harder to think gay people are scary, because it turns out gay people are the ones you just had lunch with.

        1. Cheryl Blossom*

          This is a very optimistic viewpoint. OP doesn’t have to be anyone’s learning experience about gay people.

        2. SarahTheEntwife*

          “Now that the manager knows you, it’s harder to think gay people are scary, because it turns out gay people are the ones you just had lunch with.”

          Sometimes that happens, especially if someone is just low-key uncomfortable around gay people because they think they don’t know any and so queer identities are nebulously scary. Sometimes it means — in their head — finding out that the guy you just had lunch with is secretly evil and disgusting.

        3. solar flare*

          homophobia doesn’t necessarily mean someone finds gay people scary (although there are certainly homophobes who are scared of gay people). it could mean a lot of other negative opinions, disrespect, disgust, etc etc etc

    4. CupcakeCounter*

      I think talking to the coworkers who know is freaking perfect. I’m guessing that at some point OP did have a negative reaction at a workplace or school (or hell within their own family) which is why their level of discomfort is so high so if questioned/confronted about why they didn’t immediately correct boss or other coworkers they have a perfectly legitimate reason to protect them self.

    5. Drop Bear*

      Yes, sorry, I should have added to my comment that the suggestion to talk to his colleagues is a great one!

    6. anna green*

      I really like the idea of talking to the coworkers who already know. I’ve been the friend-coworker in this instance, where she was out to me and a few others, but not to management. When she told me that she didn’t want the higher-ups to know she was bi because she was worried about their reaction, I totally understood and never said anything and didn’t think worse of her.

    1. Sabine the Very Mean*

      If I understand your comment correctly, I totally disagree that one must be okay coming out to bosses before one is ready to get married.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I think Sara means that once married, it’s going to be a lot harder for the OP to stay under the radar.

        1. Sara*

          That, and legal marriage is a public act, and also I think it’s harmful to the relationship and disrespectful to the spouse.

          1. Just Another Techie*

            That depends entirely on the spouse! For all we know, OP’s fiance is also closeted and work and prefers to keep their relationship quiet. It’s a little presumptuous to say that being closeted is automatically disrespectful to the spouse or harmful to the relationship when we don’t know anything about their social environment or the fiance’s needs here.

            1. The Original K.*

              I used to work with a woman whose partner was a woman (not sure if they were legally married) and she was vague about it at our work because her partner wasn’t out at work and she didn’t want word traveling.

            2. Sara*

              True, we don’t know what the agreement is between OP and their fiance about their shared level of outness/closetedness. If they’re on the same page, that’s a good sign. But people change over time, so being on the same page now doesn’t mean it’ll last. And regardless, *secrecy* is harmful to relationships, so the more courage they both can muster, the better.

              1. Milksnake*

                OP asked for advice about work.. There’s no need for you to continuously give unsolicited advice about how to handle his relationship.

              2. Delphine*

                This isn’t just any secret and he’s not keeping anything from his partner. Coming out is still dangerous for many people and suggesting this is just something that requires more courage is unhelpful.

              3. Non profit pro*

                This is a highly unhelpful post. I am all sorts of closeted at work, in some of my personal life, to my family. My relationship with my family is better becuase they don’t know about my sexuality. If they did, I would become the object of gossip and concern and some ridicule.
                If a perfect world, everyone would be able to live their truths out loud. We don’t live in that world and telling OP they just need a bit more courage is rude and rather pollyannaish.

                1. ft*

                  I disagree that it’s unhelpful. It IS helpful to some. This comment section isn’t tailored to any one person, every day we see things that work for some people and not others. Maybe you can’t come out, and I’m sorry for that, but it doesn’t mean it’s good advice to say “everyone! I have to stay in the closet! So there’s no hope for any of you either!!” Your situation is your situation. It doesn’t mean this is the case for everyone.
                  I’m gay, I’m married. My wife wasn’t out when we were dating and we just didn’t talk about our relationship outside of our close circle. When we got serious enough to get married, we had an important conversation about whether she was really ready to get married – in my opinion, for us, we could NOT move forward into marriage without us both being fully out. I told her she had to decide if she really wanted to be married – that I wouldn’t be a closeted wife, I wouldn’t get legally married then dance around it so no one can really tell if we’re together or not. She agreed, had some VERY hard conversations with conservative family members, and got fired from her job when she came out (Catholic school, they’re still legally allowed to do that). If she hadn’t, we’d probably still be together but we wouldn’t be married. It’s extremely hard to hide a marriage.

                2. Cheryl Blossom*

                  @ft

                  I’m glad that this worked out for you, personally. But the calculus you made about your own relationship is not going to work for everyone.

                3. ft*

                  Cheryl Blossom that’s my POINT. That’s the entire POINT of my post. I’m saying that Non-profit Pro’s story is his or hers. MY story is mine. It’s not one size fits all. That’s literally the entire freaking point of what I said – that this comment section is FULL OF PERSONAL ANECDOTES and there’s no reason to tell someone that they’re not being helpful because it didn’t resonate with you personally.

              4. boo bot (queerbot)*

                I feel like this is coming from a place of trying to find an equivalent kind of secret, but being out/not out is just not the same as having a secret Canadian family your husband doesn’t know about, or something.

                It’s about personal safety as well as job security, and it’s also a question that most LGBTQ people have dealt with many times over the course of their lives. It’s not like people never have conflict over when and with whom to be out, but assuming that someone not out at work isn’t ready to be married pretty much dismisses a vast swath of gay relationships throughout the spacetime continuum, which feels unfair, to say the least.

              5. Courageous cat*

                Yikes, this is awfully presumptive. I don’t think you should speak so authoritatively on how other people’s relationships work!

            3. Cheryl Blossom*

              And coming out of the closet isn’t a one-time thing! It’s something that happens over and over again, to every person you meet. Just because someone isn’t out at work doesn’t mean they’re not out in their personal life– I’m super out in my personal life, but I’m not out at work.

              Coming out is often a matter of SAFETY. Remember that it’s still legal in many states and cities to discriminate against a person for their sexual orientation– being out to your boss could mean getting fired. (Not saying that’s what’s would happen here, just that it’s something that MANY queer people have to take into consideration.)

              1. General Ginger*

                Yes, this. It’s something that happens again and again — or sometimes it doesn’t, because sometimes you realize, “I would gain nothing positive coming out to these folks, only additional worry, so let’s skip them”.

              2. Non profit pro*

                Or you don’t get fired, but all of a sudden people pass you over when handing out assignments, you get left out of the informal networking that happens at after work drinks, clients get reassigned because your “lifestyle” might be offensive to them.
                Those are kinda the best case scenarios for negative reactions to coming out. Depending on where OP lives/ who is around them, worst case scenario can include assault or death.
                If OP says they don’t feel comfortable coming out at work ,we should take them at their word.

            4. NACSACJACK*

              If you are on FaceBook and posting pictures with your same-sex partner…you’re out. If you’re
              FB friends with people at work who can see those same pictures, you’re out at work.

          2. Jadelyn*

            That is approximately one million percent between OP and his future spouse. You, random person on the internet, have absolutely zero standing to make that kind of sweeping claim about something that is often complex and very difficult to navigate.

          3. Story Nurse*

            My spouse of five years is “out” at work as a cis, monogamous lesbian married to a woman. None of this is true—they’re nonbinary and I’m nonbinary—but it’s the degree to which they’re comfortable being out, and it is 100% not my place to police that. I will put up with their coworkers misgendering both of us for the sake of my partner’s sense of safety in their workplace.

            My other spouse of 12 years refers to me as “spouse”, leaves pronouns out of it, and lets people think what they want. He’s not out, but he’s not not out. I’m fine with that too.

            None of this is harmful to me or disrespectful to me. It’s about safety and comfort in a space where my partners spend a whole lot of their time. We all have to make adjustments for the world we live in.

            1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

              I like how you and your spouses have navigated this.

              I was going to go anon for this but heck, anyone who knew me and saw this would probably recognize the situation so whatever. I am married to a cis male and we have a toddler son; we’ve been together 8 years and married 4. I also have in my life a cis woman who has been my lifepartner since college. I am asexual and somewhat gender fluid, though I identify as cis female and it is what I am “typed” as. The three of us share a household and the raising of my son, and my female lifepartner is my son’s “other mother” and we refer to her that way. To people outside our three families of origin she is my ‘non-bio sister’ or my ‘BFF’ although it is a much deeper and more intimate friendship than that, though completely nonromantic. She is also asexual and my husband said he thinks of it as being married to a twin; he knew when we first started dating that she and I were a package deal. None of us are polyamorous; the two of them are not in a relationship at all, though they are friendly with one another. She and I have never been in a physical relationship although we have a very intense emotional one, just as I have an intense emotional relationship to my husband.

              Our families and close friends (and now y’all) know this, but at work, we present as a str8 couple with my BFF living in our attic, and that’s fine. The explanation takes too long and is no one else’s business anyway. I’ve found that even in an area as conservative as ours, most people don’t care — or if they do, they keep it to themselves. It probably helps that we are white, and none of us are young; I’m almost 40 and the two of them are a couple years younger. We’re mostly past the ages where people think they have the right to comment on all your choices in public. Mr. GreyWarden is on the autism spectrum so he doesn’t pick up on any subtle biases, and he also doesn’t care what people think about him and will say so outright. As for me and Lifepartner, this is just who we are. At this point we’ve had this friendship/relationship/bond for 20 years. But I remember when I was younger, when she and I first lived together after college, and I felt worried that everyone made “assumptions” about us. I wish I could go back to young me and tell her to ignore it all, but that’s one of the perks of getting older.

              1. Jasnah*

                Thank you for sharing your story, I’m always interested to learn about how other people live their lives.

          1. Murphy*

            I wasn’t giving that advice, I was just chiming in with what I thought they meant. OP says they use “fiance” which won’t work when they’re married.

            Honest question though, do people really say “spouse?” I don’t typically hear that when people are talking about their own spouse, only in a general way about spouses.

            1. Free now (and forever)*

              I personally use spousal unit, but that’s revealing my age as it’s a reference to the Coneheads on SNL in the early days.

            2. Dankar*

              I use partner, even though I’m currently in a “straight” relationship. I think it’s exhausting for those in same-sex relationships (or those with trans/genderqueer partners) to constantly have to navigate the husband/wife thing. It would be better if, as a society, we just switched to something gender-neutral across the board.

              Besides, I like the idea of my partner’s gender being ambiguous. Bi-erasure is real, and this feels like a very simple, personal way to push back against assumptions.

                1. Socks*

                  Partner is also great because it breaks the relationship out of the boyfriend/girlfriend vs. husband/wife hierarchy, where the end goal of a committed relationship is marriage, and that such relationships are thus more committed and mature than just ‘dating’, which is not seen as serious at all. Plus it’s vague enough to ALSO refer to, say, a sexual partner with whom you are not in a romantic relationship, although of course that depends on context, I don’t think that one is likely to come up at work for most people.
                  Anyway, partner is the best, and everyone should think about using it.

                2. Blue Anne*

                  Yes to both you and Socks! Over here, poly person deeply in love with multiple people who I want to be with for the rest of my life. One is going to be my legal spouse for immigration purposes but we are trying not to do hierarchy. So, partner.

                  Or, if I’m being snarky with friends, “other fraction”. Also gender neutral.

              1. hobbittoes*

                Yes, also because I’m bi but not out, I really like spouse (also for the reasons I listed below)!

              2. Aitch Arr*

                I’m queer (used to identify as bi) and in a long term relationship with a cis man. I call him my partner because of bi-erasure and also because I feel silly calling him my boyfriend at age 40something.

                I’m not not out at work, a few people know.

            3. Reba*

              Yep! Spouse is the preferred way for me and my spouse to refer to each other. We are of different genders, and we like having one word that’s for both of us (vs. husband/wife). I don’t correct people if they use the gendered terms, it’s not a big deal, but I always go with spouse. I concede that we are a little bit alone in this, though!

            4. hobbittoes*

              I almost always say “spouse.” Our marriage license says “Spouse 1” and “Spouse 2.” My spouse doesn’t have a very gender-neutral name though, and I’ve got pictures of our family in my office, so my colleagues mostly know my spouse’s gender. But I think it’s actually a really great way to avoid gender bias and assumptions.

            5. Rusty Shackelford*

              I’ve only known one person who referred to her spouse as “my spouse,” and she was married to a man. It was always mildly confusing to me.

            6. spouse*

              We usually use spouse in my relationship (I’m a queer woman married to a man). I have a gender-neutral name and people sometimes mistakenly think my spouse is talking about/married to a man until they meet me, haha. When talking to/about others, I use “significant other” to try to minimize assumptions about relationship statuses and genders.

            7. Blue*

              Yes! I started a new job this summer and for the first several weeks, I had no idea about the gender of my coworker’s partner, because on the few occasions she referred to them, she just said, “my spouse.” I was very careful to mimic my coworker’s neutral language until she shared additional details. I also know people from all orientations who use “partner” as a catch-all term.

          1. Riley*

            Didn’t mean to pile on – forgot to refresh the page to see if there were any new comments before replying.

        1. I'm Not Phyllis*

          I’m bisexual and currently dating someone of the opposite sex … who I refer to as my partner. When I was dating someone of the same sex, I referred to them as my partner as well. Most people I work with refer to their spouses by name rather than saying “husband” or “wife” … which I guess is something LW can continue to do as well.

    2. Mystery Bookworm*

      Can you elaborate on your perspective a little here?

      There are certainly lots of scenarios where people will pay a high social price (or maybe even safety) if they’re out. So even if they’re comfortable with their sexuality, they’re responding to the fact that other people aren’t. This doesn’t seem that it should prohibit marriage.

      1. Sara*

        Sure, people make all sorts of trade-offs around relationships. Being closeted is one of them, and it’s a costly one. Sometimes that cost is worth it, especially when the cost of the alternative is much higher. But I don’t read this letter as that situation. I read it as someone who in 2018 (and I’m presuming this is in the U.S.) is comfortable enough with their sexuality and with their overall environment to get MARRIED, and who is nervous about coming out at work, but hasn’t mentioned any examples of homophobia or discrimination in that environment, just a boss who made a single gender assumption (that the LW confirmed by omission) and co-workers who are religious. Religious does not equate to discriminatory, no matter what the religion. I understand the wariness, but I don’t think the LW is helping themselves, their fiance, their colleagues, or the world by staying closeted here.

        1. Anon From Here*

          As I’m sure you know, though, depending on the state, LW could be fired on the spot for no other reason than for being gay and have no protection in the law. If he’s not sure how his conservative boss will react to the news, then he may have good reason to worry and want to keep his personal relationship quiet at work.

          1. Mine Own Telemachus*

            This is what I was going to say: there are very few states where gender identity and sexuality are protected classes under the law. I’m a queer woman, in a relationship with a queer woman, and I keep quiet about my orientation in situations where I don’t know what the other person may think, especially if I’m chatting with work colleagues who represent vendors in states where it is not a protected class. It’s self-preservation, not deceit, to stay closeted in unknown situations.

            I’m also not comfortable with the idea that we queer people owe it to “the world” to come out all the time. That smacks of an extra burden on the minority to represent their group to others, which is often a role we don’t want to take on, especially in a work environment. It’s not fun to be the token and asking us to do so is often asking us to do things that are stressful, nervewracking, and unsafe. Please don’t place that burden on us!

            1. Sara*

              No, I’m not saying we owe it to the world to come out all the time. I think we owe it to ourselves and to each other to be as courageous as we can, when we can, and to trust each other to ultimately make our own decisions in each situation. And I think it’s okay to ask people to do things that are stressful and nervewracking, as long as we are trusting them to make their own determination about safety and allowing them room to say no.

                1. Sara*

                  By *that*, you mean trusting the LW? Yep. I’m weighing in with an emphatic position from the other side of the closet… as a stranger, from across the internet… hoping to influence a thought pattern, for the LW and for others in similar positions. But it’s not my call what the LW or anyone else decides… I’m not in their shoes and I only have partial information to go on.

                2. Mine Own Telemachus*

                  @ Sara

                  Your comments on this post seem to contradict your own seeming empathy here. You’re the one basically accusing the LW of doing harm to all queer people—saying staying in the closet harms you personally.

                  Do you see why I might not believe your intent when your words say different?

        2. Meliza*

          I think, frankly, that that is between the OP and his fiance and you really have no business declaring whether or not he’s fit to get married. Coming out can be an extremely tricky thing.

        3. LGBTQ marriage*

          Are you a member of the LGBTQ community? Because I am, and let me tell you, no one decides to stay closeted without serious consideration of the implications of coming out. There’s a huge difference between getting married (which, ultimately, isn’t publicly known except on your tax returns) and being out in an environment that may not welcome it.

          Being in an environment where coworkers necessarily assume that your spouse is of the opposite gender is often enough for an LGBTQ person to decide that it isn’t worth a correction. I am 100% out at home on the east coast, but when I was in a airport shuttle in Utah I let my driver assume I had a husband instead of a wife. Because I recognized my environment and realized I didn’t want to make it into an issue.

          1. I'm Not Phyllis*

            100%.
            The fact that it is 2018 does not preclude homophobia and depending on environment, a worker can be risking their job by coming out. This is a real and valid fear.

          2. Sara*

            I am. I get it. And, I think the closet looks different from the inside than from the outside, and when we make assumptions that people won’t be respectful and supportive, we aren’t helping anyone.

            1. JM60*

              Just because someone doesn’t want to risk something bad doesn’t mean that they’re assuming something bad will happen. It means that they’re not comfortable with the risk, and with homophobia being ubiquitous, and with firing people for being gay legal in many states, it’s reasonable to take that risk.

              1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

                Right? I (cis female) don’t like the risk of inviting strange men into my home or picking up hitchhikers. I don’t assume the worst will happen, but I’ve watched enough investigation discovery to be aware of it. To me this is analogous to what you are saying.

            2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              Making assumptions that people won’t be respectful or supportive is cautious. The consequences if you’re wrong are likely to be hurt feelings, and possibly damaged relationships.

              Making assumptions that people will be respectful and supportive is risky. The consequences if you’re wrong can be job loss, homelessness, violence….

        4. Drop Bear*

          Wow! Well, the LW is under absolutely no obligation to help either their colleagues or the world in this situation. And the only person who can say if the ‘cost’ of revealing/not revealing is worth paying is the LW (and to some extent his partner).

        5. Shark Whisperer*

          Just because they haven’t witnessed any discrimination yet, doesn’t mean it won’t happen. I used to work at an organization in the bible belt with many religious coworkers. I never saw any sort of homophobia until a coworker, Jane, came out and started talking about her girlfriend. To be clear, she never said anything sexually explicit about her girlfriend, just that she had one and normal things you might saw about your partner at work. One very religious coworker decided that Jane openly talking about her sexuality was sexual harassment and filed a claim against her. The Good Ol’ Boys in management agreed it was sexual harassment and fired her. Jane tried to fight it in the courts, but this was a small community and the judges were friends with the higher ups at my organization, so she lost. We tired to encourage her to appeal, but she was afraid that those that supporter her would be retaliated against and wanted to just get a new job and move on. This was only a couple years ago. There are many states that do not protect you from discrimination based on your sexuality. It is 2018, but that doesn’t mean it’s always safe for LGBT people to come out.

          1. Quickbeam*

            Agreed. I’ve seen similar. What’s right and what will pragmatically happen are often miles apart. I do think that once you commit to social media contact with co-workers you should assume the whole world knows.

          2. Krfp*

            This needs a nytimes investigative article. They are doing better covering “everyday” racism, this episode deserves wide public scrutiny.

        6. Jadelyn*

          You do understand that homophobia has not been completely erased, despite the year, right? It may be 2018 and things have definitely gotten *better*, but we’re definitely not at the point where having a non-straight sexuality is completely unworthy of comment to anyone.

          And often, people’s homophobia doesn’t show up until they know they’re dealing with a queer person. If the topic has never come up before, I very much understand why OP might be wary, just in case the topic coming up suddenly brings out the boss’s inner homophobe.

          You’re really placing a lot of expectations on OP in a way that is deeply unfair and unhelpful, about exposing himself to potential discrimination in order to “help the world” (?!) and the comment above about “disrespecting” the relationship by not being out in all areas of OP’s life. This post isn’t supposed to be a referendum on whether the OP is allowed to be wary of retaliation. Can we please stop making it into that?

        7. Delphine*

          The OP has ZERO responsibility to his colleagues or THE WORLD. He does not owe anyone his coming out.

        8. Cheryl Blossom*

          It’s not about being comfortable with your sexuality. It’s about not jeopardizing a job or working relationships.

          I’ll say it again: coming out is not a one-time process. You can be out to some people and not out to others depending on circumstances and your own personal calculus of how they’ll react + how much you have to lose.

        9. SierraSkiing*

          Um. In most states in the US, you can be fired for being gay if your boss objects to it. And people DO get fired (or refused advancement) from homophobic bosses regularly. And growing up as a gay kid, learning to avoid bullying and survive involves learning to be very, very wary around religious people, since conservative Christianity is often one of the biggest sources of homophobia in the US. (I have a friend whose grandparents brought in a priest to perform an exorcism to try to drive the gay out; it left him with PTSD.) While I’m now a religious LGBT adult in an LGBT friendly denomination, I don’t blame other LGBT people for being really skittish around religion. When you’ve been told to go burn a time or five, you don’t have much incentive to come out just to “give someone the benefit of the doubt”, especially when someone has power over your livelihood.

          So I hope OP is someday in a situation where he feels safe enough to be out, but choosing to stay in the closet says nothing about the strength of his relationship or character. It says everything about the tradeoffs LGBT people need to make to stay safe and employed.

        10. General Ginger*

          Or they could be getting married to make sure they both have decent health insurance, or to be each other’s legal next of kin, or for a host of other personal reasons that have nothing to do with how comfortable they are with coming out.

          I’m also really uncomfortable with this idea that there need to be blatant examples of homophobia or discrimination in order to somehow justify feeling reluctant or wary. As a queer trans person, whose social circle includes other LGBTQIA people, I’m not exactly expecting hostility from everyone; that would be no way to live my life. But I am wary. Saying “it’s 2018” also really doesn’t mean much, given the current state of, for example, trans rights in the US. Very few states offer us any explicit protections, and quite a few have ongoing bathroom bill battles/laws already passed. Heck, Massachusetts is putting existing trans rights on the ballot right now.

        11. Seacalliope*

          The declaration that “it’s 2018” seems rather short sighted in terms of what has actually been going on in 2018.

    3. Psyche*

      I don’t think that is fair. The OP isn’t uncomfortable with his sexual orientation. He is concerned about professional repercussions when working in a conservative office. While it would be great to be able to tell him that those fears are unfounded, unfortunately we can’t.

    4. Milksnake*

      He is comfortable.
      It’s not his fault some people are homophobic.
      Not knowing who those people are makes navigating these situations difficult. Especially when the person who signs your checks is the unknown. Because it can change how they view you as a person and it becomes a risk to your livelihood.

      1. Armchair Analyst*

        This is actually a really great perspective.
        “I am comfortable… it is the boss who may not be comfortable!” That really turns it around, I think.

    5. Foreign Octopus*

      This is vague and unhelpful.

      I was still coming to terms with my sexuality when a manager once asked me, quite loudly, whether it was true if I was a lesbian. Everyone was interested after that and it made it difficult for me to understand my own feelings. I understand that the OP is in a different position but simply saying he needs to get comfortable before getting married really isn’t helpful at all.

      To the OP, I would second the advice from A above – maybe draw one of your coworkers who know to one side and say something like:

      “This is really awkward but I’d like to ask your advice on how you think Manager would react if they knew about [fiancé’s name]. I know that some coworkers are conservative here and I don’t want to make things uncomfortable for myself in the long run. What advice do you have?”

      Although I will say that as your fiancé has a gender neutral name and you’ve avoided gender indentification, your manager might just be defaulting to hetero norms without even thinking about it. The longer you live it without correcting them, the more awkward it’s going to get, particularly as some of your other coworkers know/have met your fiancé.

      Good luck and congratulations on the wedding :)

    6. Bnz*

      This is unkind. The OP’s discomfort is valid in light of the very real risk of workplace discrimination. We worked hard to win the right to marry, we shouldn’t have to put our dreams on hold until all forms of discrimination are fixed and we can feel comfortable being out everywhere.

      1. n*

        I don’t get the sense that Sara’s trying to be unkind, but rather is just being realistic.

        You’re right that in an ideal world, no one would have to deal with discrimination and we should all feel comfortable to be ourselves in the world. But that’s not the world we currently live in. People do discriminate, and people will find out eventually.

        “Getting comfortable” before getting married doesn’t necessarily mean that LW must come out at work. But I think it does mean they need to mentally prepare for the fact that they *will* eventually face some forms of discrimination and that that’s totally outside of their control. And with that in mind, weigh whether or not it’s worth the effort to try to keep certain their identity under wraps at the office.

        1. LGBTQ marriage*

          Every LGBTQ person is acutely aware that they will face discrimination and they won’t have control over it all. That’s a separate question of whether to come out at work. You can decide how much of yourself to share at work. If you think you can avoid making something an issue, and you want to, then that’s your right.

          1. n*

            I didn’t say that the LW should come out at work or has an imperative to do so.

            I guess speaking only for myself, as a person of color AND an LGBTQ person, I understand that you can control how much of yourself to share at work, but that’s only to a certain extent. People from marginalized identities are always making calculations balancing their desire to be authentic/open/comfortable in the world with the reality of discrimination and the risk of legitimately being unsafe. I cannot hide the fact that I am a person of color, and therefore can’t really do a whole lot to control that form of discrimination in my life. So I’ve learned to be really conscious of that calculation I’m making between being authentic and protecting myself, to always be doing a cost-benefit analysis, and to be realistic about whether or not the sacrifices I’m making are worth it. I think that having that kind of information about yourself makes it easier to decide what you CAN and CANNOT put up with.

            We’re all just doing what we need to do to protect ourselves in the world. There’s no judgment on that.

        2. Jadelyn*

          Trust me, we’re all very, very well aware of the odds of potential and future discrimination. Why on earth would knowing that there’s a probability of discrimination make someone *more* willing to come out, just because “eh, it’s gonna happen at some point anyway, why not just expose myself to the possibility when I don’t need to?”

        3. Cheryl Blossom*

          Literally every LGBTQ person knows they might face discrimination. That’s why we DON’T come out. Because often coming out to the wrong person could jeopardize our jobs, our homes, our physical safety.

      1. Sara*

        No, I can’t. But as a fellow queer person, it hurts ME when people choose not to be out. It hurts ALL of us when people make an assumption that the people around them will be prejudiced or act in discriminatory ways. And it hurts relationships when there is secrecy around them. So I am speaking up for what I see as the right path here. I would have a different, more nuanced, answer if the LW was writing in about someone they weren’t planning on making a lifetime public commitment with.

        1. Anononon*

          I mean, surely you can understand why it’s not entirely unreasonable for the OP to be literally afraid of being physically or financially hurt if he comes out. He doesn’t need to sacrifice himself for “the greater cause”.

          1. Socks*

            Yes! It’s not closeted queer people who are responsible for homophobia and heteronormativity- it’s bigots and oppressive power structures. Don’t punch sideways when you should be punching up, metaphorically speaking (you should probably not actually punch anyone, I just know someone’s going to think I’m advocating violence…)

        2. Dragoning*

          OP has not agreed to sacrifice himself for a greater cause by the mere act of being queer. He’s allowed to choose to protect himself first and foremost.

        3. Just Another Techie*

          The OP is not required to make of himself a sacrifice on the altar of gay pride. As a fellow queer and trans person, I find it horrifying, the pressure on us to be out, damn the consequences.

        4. Foreign Octopus*

          As a queer person myself, I don’t put the onus on those who are worried or still uncomfortable with certain things to fight for the greater cause.

          That’s what I’m here for. I’m here to fight for them until they’re comfortable enough to join me in making sure that the people don’t act in prejudiced or discriminatory ways. Until then, it’s MY job to make sure that they are as comfortable and as safe as they can be whilst getting used to new environments.

        5. Phoenix Programmer*

          I don’t see how this harms you tbh. It’s completely valid to be concerned about discrimination from religious conservatives – especially when one has power over you.

          Not all Republicans/Religious is just that – a gamble that could go either way.

          Personally I am not “out” at work about being an Atheist even though I know my Catholic boss assumes I am some type of Christian. Not the same but similar concerns. I am comfortable being Atheist and with the finite nature of all life – I know others aren’t and would potentially discriminate against me at work.

        6. Jadelyn*

          Oh come ON. OP is not being closeted *at you*. You’re way over-personalizing this and that’s making you act like you’ve got some kind of personal stake in what the OP decides to do, and that’s absolutely not the case.

          Nobody is obligated to martyr themselves for you, or for the cause. In the aggregate, is it better when more of us are out and thus forcing the world to get used to our presence? Absolutely! But you CANNOT apply that on the individual level to pressure people to come out in situations where they don’t feel safe doing so. As a ~fellow queer person~ you should damn well understand that it’s not an easy or inconsequential thing to do, and everyone has to make that very personal decision for themselves, not because Random Internet Commenter #1,429 feels that it’s hurting them personally for the OP to not be out.

          1. robot*

            Yes. In aggregate, more people being out is good and helpful, but OP’s safety and ability to maintain his livelihood must be weighed against that, and he’s the only person who gets to make that decision because he’s the one who has to live with (most of) the consequences. He and his fiance should talk about it, of course, because being on the same page about this is important, but it’s ultimately his choice and he has a much better understanding of his situation than any of us do, because it’s his life and his job.

        7. Lady H*

          I think you’re being gaslighty here with your fellow queer folk about the risks we take in coming out. I also think you’re placing the blame of oppression on the oppressed and that’s not okay.

        8. Book Badger*

          Oh, come on. Does it hurt all the drivers in the road if I drive defensively in anticipation of an accident? Does it hurt all the people on my street if I lock my doors at night? Being aware that there is danger and taking steps to prevent it – especially since you can’t know for certain who is and isn’t dangerous – is an important life skill.

          I haven’t come out to any of my extended family, not because I don’t love them or because they’re frothing-at-the-mouth homophobes, but because I don’t know just how they’ll react. My parents are very liberal, and my mom screamed at me about how I wanted to “fuck everything” when I came out as bi (she’s since mellowed out), and my dad insists that I can’t be bi because he would have “seen the signs” and anyway I’m dating a cis man. And that’s my close family – I have no idea how the others will react.

          No one is under any obligation to come out. No one is required to put themselves in danger just because you personally think it’s a good idea. And you especially don’t get to sit there as if you know OP’s situation better than OP, and declare that he has nothing to worry about just because *you* don’t think he should worry.

        9. Not a Mere Device*

          I’m out as bisexual just about everywhere, because I can be without too much risk, because it’s politically useful (“you do know some bisexual people, I’m one of them”), and because it’s more comfortable for me not to have to hide. But “too much risk” is measured in terms of the work I do; where I live; and who I’m related to and what to spend time with.

          I don’t get to decide other people’s risk tolerance. My girlfriend is out to most people around here, but not to her family of origin (who live in a different part of the country). She’s closeted there because she wants to keep having a relationship with her mother, and so far thinks it’s worth that price. I wish that wasn’t an either/or thing, but she’s the one who knows what would be likely to happen.

          In some ways, coming out is living as if the world was already as we wish it was. Sometimes that works, and either it’s no big deal or I’m raising someone’s consciousness incrementally, but sometimes people will reject you, personally or professionally. I’m a freelancer, so nobody can fire me for being queer–but by the same token I might not know if that was why a client stopped sending me work.

          1. Jadelyn*

            This. I am very, very out. But then, I live in the Bay Area in California, my boss is a married gay man, and I’m in HR. We have excellent employment discrimination protections and a culture of (relative) acceptance of queer folks, I am in an environment that I know I have support in, and because of my profession I’m well-informed about my options if anything happens. I’m fortunate that my circumstances support my being out. But I know a lot of other queer folks aren’t in that kind of position, and I’m sure as hell not going to hold that against them.

            And in the end, they’re the only ones who can make the extraordinarily personal choice of how much risk they’re open to taking.

            1. Ktelzbeth*

              I was FAR more out in the Bay Area than I am now in flyover country. I don’t like it, but it’s life.

              1. JM60*

                Even at the Bay Area company I work at it may vary from employer to employer. Out of the ~180 employees at my employer, most of whom work at the HQ where I work, I don’t know of anyone in the entire company who is queer other than myself. Yet, odds are that there are probably almost 10 of us.

        10. Kella*

          Rule #1 of National Coming Out Day (today) is DO NOT COME OUT IF IT’S NOT SAFE FOR YOU TO DO SO.

          I think we need to give OP the benefit of the doubt here and assume that he is coming out as often as he can when it is safe to do so. We also need to give the OP the benefit of the doubt that he is fully aware of the gravity of the decision of marrying your partner and being closeted– to some people.

          Encouraging people to come out is good. Creating a world in which it is safe for people to come out is good. Guilt tripping people about how they are hurting others if they don’t come out is not. It’s actually really dangerous to put this kind of pressure on people to come out when they have reason to think it might not be safe, and it is much more likely that the OP is aware of the reasons why it would benefit him and others to come out vs. being indifferent to the large-scale effects of making coming out a normal process.

        11. Lioness*

          No. It doesn’t hurt ALL of us. In some cases, not coming out protects some of us. I’m glad you live in a community that is more supportive but that doesn’t mean that those of us who don’t need to matyr ourselves and possibly lose our jobs or worse. This is bad advice that is centering around you instead of what are the options for LW. It’s not about you. It’s about what the LW feels comfortable with. And he’s under no obligation to come out. And he should in no way be made to feel guilty if he doesnt. THAT’S what doesn’t help. Having others in the community making them feel ashamed and guilty if they choose not to share.

        12. neeko*

          No, it really doesn’t hurt us when people choose not to be out. You are being a huge jerk. Coming out is a complicated and personal thing. Kicking someone out of the closet and gatekeeping helps no one.

          1. Sara*

            Lioness and neeko, individually, coming out is each person’s choice. Collectively, it hurts us to be closeted, and progress happens when enough people are willing and able to step forward.

        13. Gay and Afraid*

          Sara I think you are really wrong here. It hurts ALL of us when we have to act a certain way or do a certain thing exclusively because of our sexuality. Our fight has been for freedom to make our own choices, not to be subjugated to the other extreme.

    7. anonymous femme*

      I also disagree with this. I’m lucky enough to work in an industry and in an office that is known for being queer-friendly, but it sounds like OP has real reason to believe he’d face negative job consequences for coming out. Even if those were minor social consequences (e.g. coworkers became awkward or chilly), they could have a real impact on his career.

      I generally follow the light correction approach: “What does she do?” “Oh, Taylor’s actually a man. He’s a teapot salesman.” And I think that might be OP’s best bet here. But I’ve definitely had work-related interactions (especially when I was engaged and also faced this problem) in which thought it was best to just let someone believe my fiancee was a guy. Still happily married.

    8. Could be Anyone*

      I believe it’s other people’s discomfort OP is concerned with, not his own. It’s unfortunate that he even has to consider this, but that’s the society we live in.

    9. Less Bread More Taxes*

      I would disagree. I’m in a heterosexual relationship, and I have a very hard time discussing my partner at work. It’s not about my identity, it’s about my personal life.

    10. Flash Bristow*

      I, Um, don’t quite see what this has to do with the workplace.

      I mean sure, when you marry it’s a public act, presumably the more friendly coworkers will be supportive, and others will become aware of the same sex ness at that time by osmosis…

      … But I don’t see that as a hard and fast deadline for the office, per se. For everyone in their social life and perifory, yes! But not specifically to the office.

      Tackling how to break – or slip, or hint – this news to the boss seems like a separate thing, unless you’re saying “well if you don’t tell boss by wedding time they’re BOUND to find out then!”

      Sorry Sara I’m not trying to be confrontational at all. Just to make sense of the relevance of your comment. Maybe I’m missing something!

    11. Sara*

      Wow, I was not expecting 100+ comments to spin out from my single sentence comment this morning! I’ve replied here and there above, but I wanted to circle back and add a little more directly for the LW.

      LW, you’ve got a lot of input today, from a lot of different perspectives. I hope the mix is helpful to you. I don’t know what kind of cultural environment you’re in or whether the law has your back fully, and if you’ve got legal or safety issues in the mix, I don’t mean to minimize that. Do your homework and trust your gut. I read discomfort in your letter, but not life- or job-threatening fear, and I responded from that place. I do know that you’re living somewhere where you are able to MARRY someone of the same sex. Marry. That’s a big deal. That’s a right that you and I have, today, because of people who were brave. People who took the risks, who faced the discomfort and the fear, who stood up publicly for love and respect and equal treatment. We get to live better and more openly because of them, and for me, I think the best way to honor that is TO live better and more openly, and to do our part to continue the work for the next generation. What that looks like specifically is different for everyone. But I remember what I was afraid of when I was closeted, and I know how few of those fears came to pass. I know how much more capable I am in the world and at work when I am not using up energy on hiding. I know how much stronger my connections are when I’m not carrying a secret. And I know that relationships are healthier in sunlight. I’ve been out in the world and the workplace for a couple of decades now, and I’ve never regretted it; if anything, I’ve felt blessed to discover kindness and support in unexpected places. Good luck to you, as you make your choices.

      1. Gay and Afraid*

        LW here –
        I had a little bit of time to reflect on this, and the mentality that you’ve expressed has made me wonder if you spend most of your time in echo chambers. I don’t mean to be unkind, but I wonder if you have made decisions to surround yourself with people who are mostly like you? Or put yourself into places you are mostly accepted? There is nothing wrong with that, but I hope you can see hard work comes from the shadows too. In the religious communities I’ve been a part of no progress is made from announcing your sexuality to the pews, but instead from intimate conversations.

        You keep talking about how I’m “in the US”, etc. but many of my coworkers are immigrants from different countries. Some from countries where homosexuality is still punishable by death. You mentioned that religiosity doesn’t necessarily mean prejudice, but I’m sure you’ve personally experienced a correlation, especially depending on which type of faith?

        I’m shocked by your mentality that the hill I have to die on is being out in my workplace. I signed up to be an accountant, not a martyr.

        1. Gay and Afraid*

          Plus even in the US, where I’m from I am actively rejected. Gay people are actively rejected in many, many parts of the world. Just because in America we don’t have legal systemic discrimination doesn’t mean that we have no systemic discrimination.

          1. solar flare*

            Beyond that, in many parts of the US, we *do* have legal systemic discrimination, even if I’m not from one of those regions.

      1. Gay and Afraid*

        This comment was unkind and I regret it. I was just so shocked that a gay person could honestly believe this, but if they come from a place where they are widely accepted and have faced little prejudice I can sympathize more with where Sara is coming from.

        1. Sara*

          Good luck to you, Gay and Afraid. Sounds like you have traveled a rougher path than your original letter suggested. I hope things get better for you, and I hope you will find the courage and strength for life’s current challenges. I’m not sure if responding to any of your specific questions or comments will be useful or not… feels like it might be over a cup of tea, but less so in an internet exchange. My perspective is hard-won in its own way, but it’s day-to-day life now. Wishing you and your fiance the best.

  6. anonymouse*

    Depending on your relationship with your boss, would you be able to casually show a photo of the two of you? Perhaps if you went on vacation recently, you could mention it in a conversation and later go and see him and just say “I thought you might want to see a few photos of where we went in so-and-so! Here’s the beach, here’s Taylor and I, here’s this cool monument, etc.” and then gauge his reaction that way? He’ll either save face and act like he’s known about your sexuality all along, or say “you and Taylor?! I didn’t realize…” and that’s your cue to say “oh, I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it. Yes, we’ve been together for x years now!”

    Maybe long winded, but might prevent a straight-forward conversation that might turn a little awkward.

    1. Katie*

      I’m guessing that your boss or co-workers are going to want to see pictures of the wedding, so this might be coming up sooner than you think.

      1. LEL*

        My fiancee and I, both women, have run into this issue as well. We like the “photos on the wall of us on vacation” for her, and I do the pronoun switch mentioned upthread (boss says “she,” you say “Yes, he loved it” or whatever).

        Completely agreed that this may be moot-ish after the wedding, as you may display a photo in your office or be asked about one.

        My fiancee’s workplace is much more conservative, and she has only recently begun saying “she” about me and not correcting misused pronouns. This is so touchy, and I wish you luck in navigating it!

    2. EddieSherbert*

      I like this one – I’m also the type to share a few vacation photos and stories or whatever in the office :) so I could make it seem natural!

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        Definitely.

        If you treat it as a casual thing (which it is) then, hopefully, the response will also be casual and the mental adjustment will be made.

    3. Doug Judy*

      Or maybe if OP is comfortable, just display some photos on their desk and let people figure it out. That obviously lets everyone know, but since a good portion of the office already does, I think eventually everyone will know anyway.

    4. nonymous*

      Depending on how boss reacts to being last to know would affect my recommendations for picture display. If he gets embarrassed easily and is the kind of person who handles awkwardness poorly (I’m referring to being last to know, not that orientation should be an awkward piece of info), it might be easiest to put up an engagement photo just as OP leaves for honeymoon/wedding leave. Another option would be if coworkers show the Boss a picture on their phone.

      I think even well-intentioned, sensitive colleagues can have moments of uncertainty regarding how to handle this situation. The boss might wonder if he overlooked your pronoun corrections or if he’s inadvertently created a culture that reads excessively conservative. There might be a slight internal adjustment regarding any stereotypes that he has assigned to you. Or he could be confused why OP didn’t speak up earlier. While it’s most definitely not OP’s job to manage that emotional journey, giving Boss the space to do that processing independently is a non-confrontational way of dealing with it.

  7. jacabee*

    Oooh, this is tough. I feel for you. The lying by omission worked when none of your colleagues were the wiser, but now it does seem inevitable that one way or another your boss will find out. I would hate hate hate to come out as well, particularly in an imperfect environment, but at this point it’s probably better that Boss hears it from you.

    How about a photo, instead of an awkward speech? Next time you mention Taylor to boss – talking about the weekend BBQ, for instance – you pull out your phone and proceed casually. Sooner rather than later, probably, but I think it would get the job done with minimal discomfort on both ends. Good luck!

  8. ThatGirl*

    So, I’m queer myself, and my first job out of college was at a small-town newspaper in Kentucky. In my case, I just let people assume I was straight because I was dating a man, but I had a lesbian coworker who wasn’t very out. In her case I realized it because she did the pronoun dance (“I had a date..” but never giving pronouns) and was very, very vague about her dating life.

    I think the OP has painted himself into a bit of a corner here – he mentions his fiance but is letting the pronouns go uncorrected, and the boss is likely to find out at some point. I can certainly sympathize with not wanting to be out at work, but if you’ve dipped your toe into the personal information water I think it’s time to quietly, no-big-deal correct your boss’ assumption. The longer you wait, the bigger a deal it might seem to be to him.

    1. Temperance*

      I had a coworker who would do the same thing. It was pretty obvious, though, and I knew that she was in an LTR with a woman, but didn’t out her to anyone.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Yeah, and I never said anything at work that would’ve outed her; we were friends outside of work thankfully. It just sort of pinged my radar as “something a closeted gay woman would do”.

        1. Jadelyn*

          I think we pick up on that kind of thing more than most straight people will – it’s a strategy most of us have used at one point or another, so we notice when someone else is doing it.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I think painting oneself into a corner is an apt metaphor. That’s okay if there’s a door there–say you are on a short term assignment and have decided to let people assume “fiance Taylor” is whoever they want (a pseudonym for Billy Dee Williams?)–you’ll be gone in a month. Setting up a situation where you’re here indefinitely, and you are worried about a bunch of the people in whatever group learning your secret, but you told a bunch of other people, and the ones in the know don’t know whom they’re supposed to keep it secret from–at some point you’re going to get paint on your shoes.

    3. The sky is falling*

      The thing is, you can’t be “kind of” out. Some coworkers know he is gay, so it is very unfair to put them in a position to feel bad if they accidentally out him – especially with the way Facebook mysteriously and confusingly works you could have people seeing his posts that he didn’t think would see it, and then out him. I also don’t think it’s great to ask coworkers to keep secrets for you – it could strain a coworker relationship greatly. He had to either keep his personal life personal or not.

      1. Socks*

        You can totally be selectively out- I have absolutely no problem remembering which of my friends are out to their peers but not their boss or family, and if I don’t know how they’d like me to handle something, I ask. Pretty sure they manage fine when it comes to discussing me. It depends 100% on your social circle, maybe OP’s coworkers couldn’t manage that, but it’s not unfair to them to expect them not to blurt out “OH TAYLOR YES HE’S GREAT DID YOU NOTICE HOW MALE HE IS” at work. If they feel bad, it’s because they acted avoidably badly.

        1. Socks*

          That said, if OP suspects they could not, indeed, manage that, then yeah he will need to come up with another solution. I just don’t think that asking them to keep the information to themselves is a huge imposition on a, like, moral level. If they COULD manage it, though, it could be a fine solution. It depends on them.

        2. General Ginger*

          I would be concerned about a coworker saying something, too — thinking it’s OK, or forgetting, or just getting caught unawares.

          On a less helpful note, your comment really reminded me of Captain Holt on Brooklyn Nine Nine, when he is undercover, and trying to perform straightness really badly: “I’m still getting over the tragic loss of my wife. She was such a strong female woman, with nice heavy breasts.”

        3. Guacamole Bob*

          You can be selectively out, but it’s much easier to manage when it’s compartmentalized – out to friends but not coworkers, the softball league but not the family, or whatever. Being out selectively within one area of your life, like to some coworkers but not others, is harder. It either requires being thoughtful when coming out and giving people a heads up that you’re not totally out, or an acceptance that it’s inevitable that someone will slip.

          I think once you’re at the point where OP is – the boss knows he’s engaged and some coworkers know the gender of the fiance – things are only going to keep being stressful and muddled until everyone inevitably finds out somehow eventually.

          1. Socks*

            It’s true, I started thinking about it after posting, and any time I or a friend has been out to a coworker, they were primarily friends rather than coworkers, and in some cases they were friends first who got hired at the same places.
            I still think that’s entirely possible and something that most reasonable people should be able to handle, and is easier with practice (so people who have experience keeping their friends selectively closeted in the past should be able to do it for coworkers as well), but I guess we have no reason to feel confident that OP’s coworkers are such people.

      2. Cheryl Blossom*

        You can definitely be “kind of” out, or partially out, or out only in selective circumstances.

        Now, some coworkers might be shitty and out the OP, but that is THEIR FAULT for being terrible and not the OP’s fault for trusting them.

        1. River*

          Absolutely. At my last job I was out to everyone in my small state. Our 5 local offices would meet up monthly and everyone knew. What I wasn’t prepared for however, was when my boss wrote a short piece about me in the national, company wide e-newsletter that just so happened to out me. For all that I was comfortable being out, this newsletter outing was absolutely horrifying for me. I can barely describe how powerless and sick I felt when I saw it. I literally cried in the office. It was years ago and I still get a ragey sinking feeling when I think about it. My boss violated my trust by doing that and it sure wasn’t my fault. It was his.

          1. Stackson*

            Ohhhhh my gosh. That sounds AWFUL. I’m so sorry your boss outed you like that. Like you, I am fairly out at my branch–but if someone took it upon themselves to out me to our other locations… yeah, I almost feel nauseous just thinking about it.

      3. Decima Dewey*

        My thought is that sooner or later someone who knows OP’s orientation will assume that everyone knows, and will accidentally out him.

        1. Catwoman*

          This is why OP reveled his orientation to some of his coworkers after he got to know them and felt he could trust them. It’s also important for straight people to understand that this is not their story and you should never discuss a queer person’s orientation unless you know they are out to the person you’re talking to.

      4. General Ginger*

        You really can, though. Coming out isn’t some kind of monolithic checkbox where if you came out to one person, you’re magically out to everyone else, for one. It’s always a process. And you can also make a conscious decision not to come out in certain circles or to some specific people. I’m not out to a number of relatives, for example, or to my ophthalmologist, or my alumni association. I might change this, or I might not, but none of them are entitled to my coming out.

      5. JM60*

        Except you can be partly out. Coming out isn’t a one time thing, it’s a lifelong process. It’s common for gay people have situations similar to the OP’s with every new person who enters their lives, but it can be more difficult when it may affect your livelihood.

      6. Blue Anne*

        You really can. It’s not that hard. I do it because I’m poly and I know that some not-small percentage of people I work with would have a bad reaction. It sucks for a lot of reasons, but it hasn’t been logistically difficult.

    4. Empty Sky*

      It would solve so many problems if we had ungendered pronouns in English. A while back I had to try and explain them to my then-preschooler when he was using the wrong ones to refer to people, which is unfortunately not socially acceptable to do and so needed to be corrected. The more I tried, the more I realized how ridiculous it all was. Aside from the physical definition – which is useless in social settings, since you can’t exactly look – literally everything you might suggest to help them make the correct read is reinforcing some kind of gender stereotype or other. Girls and boys wear certain clothes? Have certain kinds of hair? What about the ones that don’t fit the rule? Why the heck should it matter to a preschooler anyway? Other than the fact that the damn language requires it, of course.

  9. Jake Not-from-State-Farm*

    Fellow gay man here. I totally get where you are coming from in not wanting to be out at the office, but the longer you continue to hide it the weirder it is going to become when your CEO inevitably finds out (or you bend yourself like a pretzel trying not to let him find out.) I think you should carefully think about why you don’t feel safe coming out to your CEO. Obviously your other co-workers are supportive. I would seriously consider a light, breezy correction just saying “He.” If you are super confident in it, most reasonable people will just move right along. Especially if you can move the conversation forward. And if you can’t do that, think hard about how long you want to stay in a job where you can’t be open about simple details of your life in the same way your straight co-workers would be. Either way, best of luck. “Coming out” timing is a judgement call that happens for me at every new job, and I’m in financial services. I’ve found being quick and matter of fact about just using the masculine pronouns and moving on helps.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I agree with a lighter, more breezy correction. I have never had to come out at work, but I have been the co-worker who assumed my gay co-worker was married to a member of the opposite sex, and I would have felt even more awkward if she hadn’t been kind of straightforward and breezy about it. Granted, I shouldn’t have made the assumption, but she appreciated that I didn’t have any kind of bad intentions. It was many years ago and I haven’t made assumptions since, especially because my partner has a gender neutral name and a lot of people assume we’re both women.

      This is all with the hope that the boss isn’t homophobic and does have good intentions, he’s just a bit clueless. The OP makes it seem like that’s the case, so I think this might be a good approach. The longer this assumption goes on, the worse the boss and the OP will feel when the boss learns the truth.

    2. Old Cynic*

      Yeah, I waited to come out at my first (long term) employer. It’s just the way things were done back then. Once I did come out, people were actually mad that I waited so long.

    3. Sherp*

      Fortunately adult kid works at a LGBTQ friendly place. When she came out as trans, her boss’s first question was, “How would you prefer we address you?” referring to her chosen name. I haven’t never met her boss but I love her boss.

  10. Amber Rose*

    Maybe ask one of your supportive coworkers what their sense of it is? Like, whether they think there’s value in correcting this misunderstanding or just letting it go, and whether you might experience backlash over this. They’ll have a better sense of your company than we do.

    1. naanie*

      Yes, I agree with this (as someone who has been closeted at work myself before). Talk to some or all of the coworkers you’ve come out to to get their opinion, and tell them about your reservations about being out to your boss. And you may already know, but it wouldn’t hurt to check out what if any employment protections you have in your location as someone who is lgbtq, as that can inform how you proceed. I really feel for you, OP.

  11. Anyone Anywhere*

    I wonder if you can just share this with the liberal colleagues that you have confided in? I think that most people understand that there are degrees of out, and that it is reasonable not to disclose your orientation to a boss when you aren’t sure how it would be received.
    I probably wouldn’t talk about my fiancé in front of my boss if I could avoid it, though- prevents situations like this. Not that you should have to hide it- but if you don’t want him to know the details it’s probably easier not to share any information at all.

    1. stk*

      Yeah, this. I’ve never had to navigate a work environment where I was seriously worried about coming out – I’m not very “visible” in my queerness and have always worked in places where liberal and inclusive was assumed default – but I think your friendly colleagues may be best placed to help you here. It might be awkward but I think explaining/talking to them should mean they don’t accidentally say anything you don’t want them to, at least, and at best they may be able to reassure you or come up with some plan from here.

  12. TheAssistant*

    Honestly, I just came out to my extremely liberal coworkers, and it was a bit of a nightmare. A lot of the “overwoke” commentary – asking, in detail, why I used specific phraseology, asking to see pictures of my girlfriend and commenting that we look like sisters (we don’t), asking how long I’ve been gay (my whole life, thanks)…

    I think the first thing you need to do is have a private conversation with the coworkers that know. Just be very frank – “Taylor and I are very happy together, but this is not a place I’m comfortable being out, and I ask that you not out me even though I am out to you.” And then just shut down any line of conversation you’re not comfortable with – “Thanks, but I like to keep this part of my life separate from work. Now about those TPS reports…”

    There’s a lot of conversation in the queer community, as you know, about outing those not ready to be out, but I don’t think those conversations are nearly prevalent enough among straight or cis folks. Be firm, and try to convey the seriousness of the topic, especially if they stray into “but you should be your gayest self!” Not everyone wants to drape themselves in rainbow in the office, and that is 100% your choice and a valid one.

    The choice on whether or not to correct your boss is yours alone – just make sure nobody makes that choice for you.

      1. Jadelyn*

        My gayest self would cover my office in glitter and pictures of Rosa Diaz. I think the pictures would go over fine, but nobody would appreciate that much glitter.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I like to say I own the gayest hat ever. It’s a pink sequin fedora with rainbow led blinky lights.

          Yes, I got it at Pride.

        2. Oranges*

          My gayest self… would look and act almost exactly like my non-gayest self. The only “tells” I have is a side-shave and the fact that I try to use gender neutral pronouns around things. I got lucky that where I’m comfortable in my skin is pretty close to where society (stupidly) expects me to be.

          1. TheAssistant*

            Me too. I’m pretty femme and also bi so nobody quite figured it out until I was like “my girlfriend [Name]”. My gayest self wears…the same stuff, or the same stuff with a rainbow tutu over it at Pride.

        3. Zillah*

          My gayest self would cover my office in glitter and pictures of Rosa Diaz. I think the pictures would go over fine, but nobody would appreciate that much glitter.

          Omg yes, this comment is everything.

      2. Cheryl Blossom*

        I wore rainbow eyeshadow to Pride this year but I don’t think it’s office appropriate.

      3. General Ginger*

        While in my case, my gayest self is all about that nice business casual wardrobe, because I’m putting together a men’s one for the first time in my life. Though I do also have a collection of super queer pins that definitely only go on during Pride.

    1. Clorinda*

      It’s just so risky, though, if you truly don’t want to be out, putting the onus on your coworkers. Sooner or later, someone’s going to get it wrong or forget. Two of my sisters are lesbian and they both said that the in-between stage (out to some but not to all) was difficult and stressful for that reason. Once you tell one member of a social community, you’re basically out to everyone … you just don’t know who knows or when they’re going to find out.

      1. TheAssistant*

        Yes, but it seems like they already know, so that cat has unfortunately left its designated bag. But having a Very Serious Conversation might just do the trick.

      2. Catwoman*

        That’s why the Conversation is so important. Queer people understand that it’s not their story to tell (most of the time), but straight people don’t always get the weight of this. Ideally, OP would have had this talk when he come out to them, but it’s better late than never.

    2. Jadelyn*

      I’ve never heard the term “overwoke” before but oh my god I love it, cause I know exactly the conversation you’re talking about. Adding that to my lexicon posthaste.

      1. Sherp*

        Adult trans kid o’ mine gets overwoke questions way too often. Her rule in helping me help others: If you wouldn’t ask the question to your cis friend/relative, don’t ask it to your queer friend/relative.

        1. Ehhhh*

          Good advice for everything: race, religion, size, ability, gender, gender identity, pregnancy/parenting, ethnicity, origin. Stop asking and saying shit you wouldn’t say/ask of everyone.

    3. AMPG*

      I would just like to apologize on behalf of all of us “overwoke” types. If it helps at all, we often realize after the fact that we were being ridiculous and feel completely mortified.

      1. TheAssistant*

        Just if you tend to stray this way, be very conscious of body language and/or the words “I am uncomfortable” because my personal overwoke folks are VERY NOT AWARE of these things.

        1. AMPG*

          This is a good point. I’ve gotten a lot better at this over time, but I have a couple of memories that still make me cringe.

        1. AMPG*

          Well, yes – that’s the point. We (or at least, I) overcorrect in the moment, feel horrible about it later, and then recalibrate for the next time.

          1. solar flare*

            that’s good to hear! i can certainly see people making no attempt to recalibrate, but i’m glad you do

    4. anon today and tomorrow*

      To be honest, I have an easier time dealing with yelling homophobes than overwoke liberals. The “overwoke” love to claim to be allies, but push by all etiquette when it comes to LGBTQA+ people without acknowledging our comfort. Or worse, speak for us instead of letting us speak. A good ally listens and doesn’t speak over or for the group they’re supporting if a person of that group is present.

      My rule is to call them out on it, and if they get defensive point out how they’d never ask a cishet person these questions, so why is it okay to “other” me?

      1. Jadelyn*

        The worst part of the overwoke type, in my experience, is that they not only refuse to take a hint and back down most of the time, but then they get offended that you’re not appreciating their Wokeness, and suddenly their hurt feelings are the Real Problem Here and you are being held responsible for their feelings, regardless of what their performative wokeness did to your own feelings. Homophobes are straightforward. Overwoke people are a quagmire of expectations and lack of boundaries.

        1. TheAssistant*

          Performative Wokeness and the ensuing emotional labor on the part of the wokeness recipient is ridiculous. I’ve seen it happen to me and my fellow queers, I’ve seen it happen to people of color, I’ve seen it happen to lady-identifying types by cis dudes.

          Part of being woke, people, is just *expletive* listening to those who don’t share your privilege. Take a seat.

        2. anon today and tomorrow*

          YES YES YES.

          Then it becomes about them and their unacknowledged biases and hurt feelings and defensiveness instead of about you. Honestly, this is why I get really, really wary of straight people in LGBTQA+ spaces. Those spaces aren’t there so they can pat themselves on the back for being an ally. They’re there for us. If they want to come, they have to realize it’s the time for them to fade into the background instead of making themselves front and center. If you feel like you need to be acknowledged for being an ally, you’re doing it wrong.

          1. HVee*

            “If you feel like you need to be acknowledged for being an ally, you’re doing it wrong.”

            Thank you, I could not agree more!

    5. AccidentalGardener*

      Love the term “overwoke”, LoL’d at my desk and will be using it! While my overwoke experiences are not in the LBGTQ experience (hetero Black woman here) I know EXACTLY what you mean and know several ppl to whom the term applies.

    6. Hey Nonnie*

      I agree with this. I would take those who know aside and ask them to not discuss it at work. Emphasize that there is a real risk to your safety / financial security, if need be. Then I would dial back how much you talk about your personal life when you’re at the office. Give generic, brief answers to questions and redirect (“What did you do last weekend?” “Oh, nothing special. Did you hear from Joe about the X account?”) and don’t bring it up yourself. Not just in terms of your relationship, but it’s a perfectly viable strategy to avoid “crossing the streams” of your work life and your personal life as a general rule. I don’t even tell my boss when my mom comes to visit — it doesn’t affect work in any way and they don’t need to know.

      Most people are self-absorbed enough that your boss and mean co-workers are unlikely to notice this and it will become the new normal. But since the cat is already partially out of the bag, and you can’t control what other people do (well-meaning or not), I might also consider looking at what your other options are, just in case. Have a plan B, even if you never end up needing it.

    7. DreamingInPurple*

      Yeah… in my office, as soon as I (female) clarified that my “fiancé” was in fact a fiancée (via pronoun switch), I was met with literal squealing and “omg you’re getting marrieeeeed, that’s so awesomeeeeee”… Points to them for effort and for not being gross homophobes, but there’s still something very patronizing about it.

      Or maybe I’m just in a mood because we went and got flu shots this morning and when I introduced her as my wife (necessary because we’re on the same insurance) I got the “You look like you could be sisters!” comment. I have no interest in being married to my sister, so thank you very much for just making me vaguely grossed out???

      1. HVee*

        What is wrong with people? 18 years now of being asked whether my wife and I are sisters. We look nothing alike. No one has ever, ever asked whether my actual sister and I are sisters.

        1. Also had that happen*

          I’ve had this happen too, a couple of times. No idea if it might apply in your situation but I realized later I think the people who made the “sisters” comments might’ve been vaguely antisemitic? Or not necessarily consciously anti but… They really kept going on and on about how much we look alike, when we really don’t look anything alike at all. Different shaped face. Different skin tone. Different hair colors. But we’re both Jewish, and we both look stereotypically Jewish, albeit in different ways. That’s the only thing that comes even close to making that comment make sense.

          1. Socks*

            There might be something to that; I was thinking about this as I read through the thread earlier, but me and my (opposite sex) partner get this sometimes, and we also don’t look that similar besides being identifiably jewish. And like, I didn’t comment before because it seemed derail-y, but since you bring up the jewish angle I thought I’d add to the data points.

            I know this has more dimensions of awfulness when it happens to same-sex partners, but even for us, it’s just like… why would someone say that? Who wants to think about being related to their sexual and romantic partner? Is anyone ever, like, happy to hear that from someone? “Oh, thanks, we role-play incest all the time now that you mention it!” It’s just… such a bizarre comment to ever make at all.

            1. DreamingInPurple*

              I know, right? I’ll even grant that someone might think my wife and I are sisters – firstly, because I’ve known many pairs of sisters that don’t look that much alike, and secondly, because people are so freaking bad at telling others apart in general if they don’t know them. I used to be regularly confused for a co-worker of mine who had a completely different hairstyle, eye color, and was at least 4″ taller than me, just by virtue of the fact that we’re both women with dark hair. But once two people are introduced as spouses/romantic partners, why would someone ever say they look related? It’s my dream to be able to fire back with your response someday, hah!

      2. Jaid_Diah*

        My best friend and I get either mistaken for gay partners or sisters. It doesn’t help that we occasionally pick outfits that match when we hang out. It’s not on purpose, we just have a similar taste in colors!

        Then sometimes I end up matching her boyfriend’s outfit. ;-)

    8. Wendy*

      Just chiming in as another comment thanking you for the term overwoke. I’ve had very similar conversations to the one you describe, and “overwoke” is perfect.

    9. Gay and Afraid*

      I haven’t been out for long, but I agree with you that I’ve felt rejection from both “very liberal” and “very conservative” in their reaction to me. My co-workers are very gossip driven and I’m sure it will be public news in a week or so – I’m going to take this weekend to collect myself and decide what to do.

      1. River*

        Great idea! Just think too – if it gets around, it gets around. You won’t have to do anything and your boss will know. Problem solved. If you’re worried the relationship with your boss will be damaged that’s one thing, but if not, I would just let what will be, be. That’s worked for me. Good luck and hopefully the weekend will bring the clarity you need :)

  13. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I look forward to the day when ‘coming out’ is no longer a thing. That being said, I would definitely talk to the coworkers you trust and see if they can offer guidance in the best way to handle this.

    P.S. today is National Coming Out Day, so you could always do something with that if you’re feeling particularly bold.

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      Amen to that.

      Here’s to the day when we can just use the correct pronouns without making a huge announcement about it.

      Coming out to my parents was a huge kerfuffle and I resented every moment of it.

      1. TheAssistant*

        God, I hated coming out. I actually just stopped doing it. I told my mom, my sister, and my dad – all awful. I told a few supportive friends who were awesome. And then I just posted I was in a relationship with a woman on Facebook. Started using the term girlfriend immediately with my new coworker who wouldn’t know any different. Life is much easier when not doing the song and dance.

        1. Foreign Octopus*

          Exactly.

          The worst thing I ever got was some gross old dude I worked with who, upon meeting my gf when she swung by, was which one of us was the man in the relationship.

          I told him neither because that was the point. He never got to grips with it.

          1. Dankar*

            I so don’t understand those people. Like, I guess he was just confused about the fact that there are women out there who: a) don’t need a man; and b) don’t need a substitute for the lack-of-man in their lives.

            I don’t think that’s particularly difficult to parse, but when you spend your whole life thinking you’re some necessary element for all the ladies, I guess it’s impossible to wrap your mind around. Haha

            I didn’t “come out” to my father, but my mother told him I was dating a girl in high school against my wishes. He still refers to it as “my adorable lesbian phase before I got back to dating men.” I’m bi, and I’ve only ever dated one man. We don’t talk about my personal life much.

            1. Oranges*

              Yeah, that miiiiight be because he’s 100% not safe to talk around? Maybe? (Nothing really to add, just wanted to re-iterate for you that your decision is an amazingly good one).

            2. Foreign Octopus*

              You’ve got a point there.

              Certain men of a certain generation believe that their penis is so influential that they can’t imagine how a woman could possibly live without it. Fortunately, men of the newer generations aren’t always like that so yay, I suppose.

              Sorry about your dad though. Bleugh.

              1. Bea*

                I just had an indepth conversation with a friend who met an old man during his residency that came in demanding to know what was wrong with his penis/erections.

                All signs said “nothing” was wrong, his erections were a-Ok why the concern? Well the last time he got jiggy with it, the woman who was elderly as well wasn’t naturally lubricated…and he took that to mean his unit was malfunctioning.

                So that’s actually how people think and why some struggle so hard with how same sex relationships work :(

              2. allya*

                If only it WERE limited to a single generation. Only a few years ago I was friendly(ish) acquaintances with a guy, early 20s, who asked me if I didn’t find penetration so much more satisfying. Rather than the angry rant I could feel building, I just said, “Why, do you?” and left him to walk off, speechless.

            3. Amber Rose*

              I always got the feeling that was code for “which of you is dominant.” Like, there’s this idea that a couple has one feminine person and one masculine person and the masculine person is the take-charge, decision maker of the house. The pants-wearer (ugh).

              That’s an awful attitude generally. People don’t fit into neat roles. We’re messy, complicated and ever-changing.

              1. General Ginger*

                Yeah, same. I take it as essentially the worst case scenario of gender roles, “Which one of you sits on the couch with a beer, and which one of you cooks dinner?”

              2. feministbookworm*

                I love that moment in the movie Jenny’s Wedding when the title character calls her dad out on the “which one is the guy” question by saying loudly that he’s asking which one of them “straps it on.”

                A former supervisor at an internship talked about his daughter’s wedding and joked that he wasn’t sure if he was the father of the bride or the groom. Even though I know that he didn’t necessarily have bad intentions (I mean, he was at least showing up to his daughter’s wedding…) I did not come out at that workplace because I did not want to be on the receiving end of these kinds of “jokes” or be put in the position of explaining why they weren’t at all funny.

    2. Amber Rose*

      I also look forward to that day. But I fear it is a long, long way off.

      People are stubborn and slow to change.

    3. Indefinite Contract Attorney*

      I was wondering if this particular post was timed to be on National Coming Out Day! Too good a coincidence.

    4. Dance-y Reagan*

      Now that you mention Coming Out Day, I am cringing imagining what the Overzealous Former Teacher from Tuesday’s letter would do.

      1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

        Thank you I’m going to be seeing that in my nightmares now.
        The rainbow cupcakes, the masks of various queer celebrities….
        To keep mildly on topic OP, you could have a talk with those co-workers you’re out to, no matter what you decide to do about the boss. Just a quick “hey i’m glad you know about Taylor, as a heads up I prefer to keep my private life low- key at work, so please don’t bother correcting others who misgender Taylor, I’ll do it if I want it done.”
        … or whatever you want them to take away about your preferences. It won’t be 100% effective but it should help control the message…. and anyone’s urge to make a pride flag cake.

  14. Random Commenter*

    Reeeeeally depends on the boss and their relationship, but maybe he could telling the boss in private and ask for discretion?

  15. samiratou*

    This is a tough one. It’s going to be awkward no matter what–is it going to be harder or more awkward for the LW if he waits to clue people in? Or is it going to be similarly awkward no matter what, so no reason to correct people right now, anyway?

    Word will probably get around, anyway, now that some other coworkers know.

  16. LibraryMan*

    Talking to your CEO just like you laid it out to us is probably the best way to go. Respectful, honest, and forthright in focusing on what you see the issues are – and how you DON’T want to make issues about your personal life.

    By taking this tone and approach, you elevate it out of the “gossip” realm, and bring it into the “honest discussion between adults” realm, which automatically gives you some gravitas, and helps the CEO not take the misunderstanding personally. It also puts the CEO in the right place to respond favorably to your request to not make this a big deal.

    1. Tehanu*

      Thanks for this. I think it’s best to be direct, including why you haven’t been out so far, which is completely reasonable given the circumstances. An “honest discussion between adults” would be my inclination as well, explaining to the CEO what you’ve explained here. Something like “I want to speak with you about Taylor, who is not a woman, he’s a man. When I started here I was not sure what the attitude would be towards same-sex relationships and marriage. Now that I feel more comfortable, and more confident about a positive reaction, I’m sharing this with you. Normally I prefer to keep my work and private life separate, and I still don’t know how some folks here will react so in general I want to continue to do so, but you’ve been very supportive about wanting to meet my fiance. I completely understand why you’d assume I was engaged to a woman, and that’s okay, I just want to clear this up.”

      The CEO will more than likely feel embarrassed about making (heterosexist, but lots of people do) assumptions. So this also helps let them off the hook a bit and hopefully the wording both affirms your trust that he won’t be bigoted and that you’re looking to move forward.

      1. Jadelyn*

        That’s a great script. And yeah, assuming CEO is a decent guy, he’ll probably be more embarrassed at realizing he made assumptions about it than anything else.

    2. King Friday XIII*

      I agree with this. My biggest concern would be if you think the CEO is going to react out of embarrassment and mentioning it privately gives him the opportunity to save face.

      1. Andy*

        yeah, people don’t always express their truest/best self if surprised and feeling embarrassed, which can be a downward spiral of embarrassment. and then, wrongly or rightly, you’re associated with the embarrassment.

    3. smoke tree*

      If the LW chooses to bring it up with his boss, I actually think a lower-key approach might work better. I’d just say something like, “Oh, it’s a common mistake, but actually Taylor is a man” next time it comes up. It lets the boss save face and mirrors the kind of nonchalance he’s hoping the boss will pick up. I’d be reluctant to make it into a bigger deal than that, since I wouldn’t want to get into a whole referendum on sexuality and the process of coming out with my boss.

  17. Random gay commenter*

    Disclaimer: I don’t know your co-workers personally, so stick with what’s comfortable for you.

    Making it a secret makes it into a bigger thing when the truth comes out (and it likely will considering some of your coworkers know already).
    People take their cues from you, so if he says that he wants to meet her, you can just reply something like “he’d be happy to meet you too, now about the Monroe account…” as if it’s no big thing.
    None of my co-workers have every batted an eye when I referred to my partner with a male pronoun (I’m male)

  18. Sally*

    I’m an LGBTQ reader, and I’m not sure what I think about this. I’ve been out at work for years, but I have always lived in cities where that was safe for me to do. If your colleagues know that your fiance is a man, I think it’s likely that your boss will discover this at some point, and if that happens, he will likely feel foolish (and possibly angry at you for “making” him look foolish in front of employees). It also could make him think you are ashamed of your relationship and your orientation. I doubt his first thought will be that maybe you didn’t feel safe telling him. So it might seem that I’m advocating that you tell him, but you don’t feel safe doing that, so I’m just not sure. I guess I would lean towards telling him in order to avoid potentially hard feelings when he finds out. Not telling him (or keeping it from everyone) is one thing, but letting him embarrass himself over and over (when everyone else knows) is not great – for you.

    1. Mediamaven*

      I’m a pretty liberal, straight woman so it’s really not my place to judge, but I think he should come out to his boss. This is 2018 and the reality is gay marriage is legal and accepted and people who don’t support it will eventually have to modernize their viewpoints. I had a wonderful employee who worked for me for some time. I knew that she was gay after some time but she simply never felt comfortable being upfront about it to me or I think most or all people in the office. I know it’s not about me and my feelings but it stung a little that she didn’t feel comfortable sharing it. We’re a small, young office and I would have been shocked if anyone would have felt negatively towards her. No one would have cared! I wished she had just shared it because it wasn’t a big deal, and its who she is. But, I don’t know how conservative this guy’s boss is.

      1. Dragoning*

        It really isn’t your place to judge, or to feel hurt, or tell queer people what they should do. It’s easy to say “Everyone will simply have to accept it” when it’s not your life and livelihood on the line.

        1. Dragoning*

          I said this lower down, but, you are asking or demanding someone risk their life and career so your feelings aren’t hurt, and that’s a very tall order…and it’s inappropriate for you to ask that.

          1. Mediamaven*

            Calm down. Nowhere did I say I was asking or demanding to be told and my employee’s life and career was never at risk telling me. I was simply sharing how I felt in a situation similar to the one the poster was asking about and I’m certainly entitled to feeling however I felt about it.

            1. QueerReader*

              You’re entitled to how you feel, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a jerk thing to do. You’re taking it personally that your employee didn’t come out to you, when that is their personal business. You are their boss, not their friend or family, and frankly NO ONE is entitled to knowing anyone else’s sexual orientation. Not to mention, I mean, you were disappointed about how they acted. Even if it isn’t resulting in a firing, that’s negative feelings to an employee based on them not coming out to you.

              And you’re misunderstanding – it’s easy for you to say your employee’s career was never at risk, because you are not your employee. Your employee never had that guarantee, because they can’t get in their head. It is terrifying to think that who you love could cause you to lose your job – and this happens and is legal in many states.

              Alison has written quite a few posts about why employers shouldn’t feel like family, and I think it might benefit you to look into them. You are feeling far too entitled to information about an employee’s personal life.

            2. Lady H*

              Perhaps your employee didn’t feel comfortable coming out to you because you felt entitled to her personal life?

              Telling someone else to calm down is inappropriate. Just because someone disagreed with you is not a reason to assume they weren’t calmly doing so and even if they weren’t, you need to be open to valid opinions about essentially pitting your discomfort up against very real discrimination queer people face.

            3. Phoenix*

              Dragoning’s comment was perfectly calm, and accurate – it’s inappropriate for you to center your feelings over others’ senses of safety.

            4. Feeling some kind of way about this nonsense*

              Tellign someone to “calm down” because they disagree with you is unneccessary and condescending. Nothing about the comment you replied to displayed a lack of calm.

              You are entitled to feel your fee-fees, sure. The rest of us are entitled to tell you that your hurt feelings are not the damn point, that you are being unreasonable and inappropriate, that your choice to center your own feelings over the needs/experiences/feelings of those directly affected is entitled and ignorant, and that you are totally missing the point. Because they’re not, you are, it is, and you are.

              Go feel your feels. Don’t make them other people’s problems.

      2. feministbookworm*

        gay marriage may be legal, but there are more than 20 states in this country where someone can be fired for being gay. Choosing to come out or not may have little relationship to how close you are to someone or how you think they’ll take the news (there’s a good reason why coming out to family and close friends is SO MUCH HARDER, even if you have reason to think they’ll be supportive, than coming out to people who are less close– because if you’re wrong and they take it badly, it doesn’t hurt as much coming from an acquaintance)

        In a conservative workplace in a state without employment protections for LGBT individuals, even if you think this boss might be supportive, what happens when a new boss starts who isn’t? Once you’re out, there’s no going back.

      3. Jadelyn*

        I say this with as much kindness as I can muster, but if you’re a straight person, you really don’t get to have an opinion in this conversation. This is 1000% an intra-community issue, and further, you just genuinely don’t know what you’re talking about, by definition – you don’t have the lived experience with the issue that’s necessary to have an informed opinion.

        It may be 2018, and same-sex marriage may be legal now, but 1: workplace discrimination on sexuality is still perfectly legal in a lot of places, which may be where OP is, and 2: there’s a lot of people who haven’t gotten the memo on “modernizing their viewpoints” and still display plenty of homophobia.

        Just…can you please, please take a second to think about what you’ve said here, and notice that twice in a single paragraph you have said “I know it’s not about me but…[proceeding to make it about you]”. If you are aware enough to realize “It’s not about me” and “I’m straight so it’s not my place to judge”, I hope you’re also aware enough to understand that those are two sentences that should NOT have a “but” after them.

        1. Mediamaven*

          There are plenty of straight people commenting on the situation on this thread. I’m simply sharing how I felt in a similar situation as the boss in case it’s helpful. So, like, it’s relevant. It doesn’t mean I’m prioritizing my feelings over the employees. Simply giving my two cents, which I am entitled to.

          1. N.J.*

            Here’s the thing though. We are all entitled to our viewpoints and feelings and that’s fine for you to share, but your perspective doesn’t even seem remotely realistic. There are large swaths of the country where it doesn’t matter if there is a legal right to gay marriage etc. you will still be treated horribly as a member of the LGBTQIA community. I say this as a cisgenered straight person who has lived in Appalachia my entire life. It is NOT SAFE to come out in many parts of America, 2018 be damned. We have no right as people outside the oppressed community to be upset that someone thinks we weren’t cool enough or understanding enough, despite any signaling you might have done to show you are accepting , to come out to. We all have a right to ur feelings, sure, we don’t have a right to make them someone elses’s concern.

            1. Andy*

              this/\ up here. I’m a queer woman married to a man in an UBER liberal and LGBTQIA friendly university (union) job in a blue state and my boss is SUPER community positive….but he has assumed I’m straight (for what are obvious reasons) and I actually do not feel like it would be good for me to correct him. It’s just a feeling. He would no doubt be hurt by that, and I think he would do his best to be an ally, but …I have this feeling. So I’m going to go with my gut. I have to.

          2. Jadelyn*

            Just because you can say something, doesn’t mean you should say something. This is the absolute epitome of the “does this need to be said, by me, right now?” situation.

            There’s a difference between an opinion and an informed opinion. You’ve got an opinion, sure, but it’s not an informed opinion, because you are not one of the people affected by this kind of situation. It would be like me barging in on a group of theoretical physicists to talk about how I feel about string theory. Sure, I get to have an opinion, and I’m “entitled” to give my two cents, but it would be rude of me to decide that my ignorance is on par with their knowledge in a conversation and thus feel like I should be talking.

        2. Avery*

          I did see that Allison added a comment later (after, I think, many straight people had commented). That being said, I disagree in general about saying anyone doesn’t “get” to have an opinion on something. It is true that straight people don’t have the lived experience dealing with discrimination (and often outright hate) for who they love. It is also true that all types of experience may be relevant. For example, someone like the Boss here who went through a very similar experience, making assumptions, etc. could have an opinion on the subject as in, “a few pronoun replacements would’ve helped me realize I was making an unwarranted presumption.” Even people who have no relevant experience “get” to have an opinion. Granted, the opinion has no real substance because of that lack of experience, but everyone “gets” to have an opinion — even a wrong one.

          1. Cheryl Blossom*

            No, sorry. Straight people’s opinions on whether someone should come out/how “hurtful” it is to them (blegh) that someone didn’t come out soon enough/whatever should be 100% ignored.

            This isn’t about you.

            1. Andy*

              it really isn’t in %99 of convos that involve coming out, except that the person OP is sussing out is a (presumably) straight person so the POV of ‘how do straight people respond to this sitch’ is valuable if it will help OP navigate. I think that’s the purpose we’re trying to serve: help OP figure out the path he wants to take. So let’s give him a good idea of what the field of engagement might look like.

              1. Cheryl Blossom*

                Still not helpful. OP knows his coworkers better than some randos on the internet, and the best advice is a path forward: whether that’s navigating being partially closeted or coming out to all his coworkers or something else altogether. And, quite frankly, those aren’t really things straight people have experience with.

                1. Andy*

                  you are, of course, correct. I had been thinking that people without the coming out experience are chiming in (not just because peeps like talkin about stuff) because the path you’re hopefully navigating through whilst coming out is usually the one that leads you through the forest of straight without too many scratches. so, no the trees can’t guide you, but they can tell you how dense they grow? still be helpful? I think they’re trying to be helpful. Obs intent isn’t everything, but I’m grateful to see that they’re trying to be helpful. I hope I’m not deluding myself!

          2. Phoenix*

            Sure, they “get” to have an opinion – and expressing it in public “gets” them some entirely appropriate pushback. If you’re suggesting that they should be able to express their (hurtful, selfish) opinions and not get any response from the people they’re talking over, I vehemently disagree with you.

            1. Jadelyn*

              Yes. Have all the opinions you want in the privacy of your own head. Gods know I have opinions on things that aren’t mine to opine on – but when you start sharing those opinions, that’s when there’s an issue.

              1. Dragoning*

                Or at least share them in like-groups. If they want to go share them with a bunch of other cis straight people, that’s fine. But queer people really don’t need to take it as “advice”

          3. Jadelyn*

            Fine, have the opinion then, but keep it to yourself when you’re talking to people who have actual direct experience of the issue at hand, and understand that your opinion holds little to no weight in the conversation because it’s based on things you literally Cannot Know, because you’ve never experienced them. And if you decide that your uninformed opinion is such a pearl of immeasurable worth that we absolutely must have it bestowed upon us, be prepared to have people reply with “…yeah anyway that’s not relevant” and go back to talking with other folks who actually get the issue.

      4. QueerReader*

        I’ll be honest, I think the fact that you’re not queer is a pretty big part of your response… perhaps try to empathize a bit more? Life still blows sometimes for LGBTQ people in this country, even in more liberal areas, it’s not like legalizing gay marriage magically changed a history of homophobia.

        The fact that it’s 2018 doesn’t change the fact that a vast majority of the country is homophobic, as OP indicated in his letter. It doesn’t change the fact that if I’m outed at work, I could legally lose my job in over 20 states. Coming out is very hard to any person of real consequence – it permanently changes how that person views you, just for being yourself. It doesn’t matter to OP that attitudes might change over time if they have issues at their job in the present.

        And frankly, it’s ridiculous that you’re offended and employee didn’t come out to you. You are her boss. You are a person who controls her livelihood. Coming out is hard, and you are not entitled to anyone coming out to you. People judge queer people, and apparently you’re one of them, since you’re judging your queer employee for not sharing a detail of her personal life with you that isn’t your business.

        1. QueerReader*

          to correct: “vast majority of the country is homophobic” was meant more as, there are many places in the country where homophobia is the norm. Though I suspect if we did a study asking more questions than “should gay marriage be legal”, the numbers would be depressing.

      5. anon today and tomorrow*

        You’re right when you said it wasn’t about you.

        You don’t get to feel hurt when someone doesn’t want to come out to you, and that’s some extreme privilege right there. It’s putting the onus and guilt on a LGBTQA+ person to share their burden with you even if they’re not comfortable.

        There are people I know who are generally accepting, but I’m still not comfortable coming out to them for the exact emotional responses you had. I know if I come out, I’ll get a lot of weird “your sexuality isn’t a big deal to me!” (which it is if you’re making such a fuss) or “I’m sad you didn’t trust me to tell me sooner” (which is only going to make me feel worse).

        So yeah. It’s not about you. Just because you’re liberal doesn’t mean we all want to flock to you and tell you our sexuality. Liberals can be as bad about perpetuating negative stereotypes or enforcing unconscious biases as anyone else.

      6. Anon for This*

        Straight-lady boss to straight-lady boss real talk here: I don’t see how being hurt by a queer employee not explicitly outing herself to you…isn’t making it about you.

        My org provides services for LGBTQ+ youth, including housing for kids who have been kicked out for being gay/trans/nonbinary/etc. Yes, *in 2018* and in a very Blue place.

        It’s very easy to say, ‘oh just come out, people will get over it!’ when you’re not the one being discriminated against for housing; being fired from jobs with no legal protections; losing family and friends and the attendant safety nets that go with them. And that’s not even scratching the surface for the kids we see.

        Let’s please not weigh in on this with what the OP should or shouldn’t do; it’s not our place to have an opinion on that, and only reads as centering ourselves in the conversation.

      7. General Ginger*

        I wish people wouldn’t say “this is 2018” like everything is hunky-dory. It isn’t.

        I would have been shocked if anyone would have felt negatively towards her. No one would have cared! You don’t know that. It would be great if that were guaranteed, but you can’t count on that.

        it stung a little that she didn’t feel comfortable sharing it So she wasn’t comfortable. I’d maybe wonder what in the office made her not entirely comfortable. Or I’d let it go, because ultimately, it’s her business whether to share, or not.

        I wished she had just shared it because it wasn’t a big deal Maybe it was a big deal to her.

        1. Thursday Next*

          I think we’ve seen a lot of terrible things re. racism, misogyny, homophobia, and xenophobia in the last few years in the U.S., so “It’s 2018” is actually a discouraging statement (IMHO).

          People get to decide for themselves whether/where/when they feel safe.

    2. Gay and Afraid*

      Thanks for your response – your indecision is what I’m feeling pretty deeply as well. I see what you’re saying about how it impacts him as well.

    1. Armchair Analyst*

      I hope not! What a great issue to raise awareness of a seemingly-small but personally HUGE issue at the workplace!

      I am cis and married hetero but this is a great example of how we can all be allies for LGBQT+ in the workplace.

  19. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    Oh man, OP, I’ve played this exact game! I was engaged to “Chris” (-tina, not -topher) while working in a fairly rural and very religious part of the US.

    I have to admit — it does not get easier with time. It might not actively get harder if you can find a good equilibrium, but the fact that some of your coworkers know means that you do have to be prepared for the possibility that you’re going to get outed sooner or later.

    Depending on the specifics of your job, your coworkers, your part of the world, and your comfort with that possibility, there are a few different things you can do. Probably the easiest you’re going to get is to talk quietly with your coworkers who know, and make it clear to them that you are choosing to remain closeted, and get their buy-in on that. They might or might not understand already, but making it explicit is important. You can also lay out what this means for them. “Look, BigBoss is going to say things like X, Y, or Z… please just respond like ABC, because I really do not want this becoming an issue in the office.” Giving them specific scripts to follow and specific amounts of information to give or not give will give you more peace of mind and will make it easier for them to help you.

    I would absolutely suggest also shutting down as much conversation about your personal life at work as possible. If it becomes a habit that “OP doesn’t talk about life outside of work and that’s just how he is” then again, it becomes less likely for that sort of thing to wind up slipping out.

    Also, consider your worst-case scenario. What happens if you do get outed? What will you do? Will you likely have to — or want to — leave the firm? Prepare for that eventuality. Whatever your local and state antidiscrimination laws are for employment and housing, I’d get real familiar and fluent with them. Talk with your fiancé about it.

    1. Yikes*

      I’m also gay, and this is also what I’m thinking. This isn’t going to end well, and it’s time to plan for that.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        For me, my worst-case scenarios never materialized, but the possibility was constantly hanging over my head. Family threatened to throw me out but never quite pulled the trigger on it; coworkers engaged in homophobic chats about how they would treat any gay person who tried to interact with them but never sussed me out. Having a go-to plan for how I would deal with it if it happened made things a lot easier for me, because I was prepared.

    2. Lurker*

      This is pretty much exactly what I was going to post, with a slightly different anecdote.

      OP, if you don’t feel comfortable coming out to your boss (now, at least), please talk to your in-the-know coworkers and ask them to keep quiet, but prepare for the worst. I hate that we have to do that, but I’ve worked with too many people I would not trust with the knowledge of my orientation. It’s not fair, or right, or just, but it’s currently reality for us.

      On the other hand, if you’re willing to risk it, coming out to your boss and possibly other coworkers can be really, really freeing, and it can help pave the way for the next queer person. But don’t let anyone push you to do it before you’re ready, please.

    3. Gay and Afraid*

      I’m sorry that you’ve been through this, but I have to tell you it makes me feel unspeakably better that I’m not the only one who has gone experienced this. I think you’re right there’s no good outcome, and that being outed is imminent.

      1. Dr Wizard, PhD*

        Hi OP. I just wanted to say that I totally get your feeling that there’s “no good outcome” – but really what you’re saying is that there’s probably no outcome where your boss doesn’t ultimately find out about your sexual orientation.

        Under the circumstances you’ve laid out, I suspect that’s probably true. However, it doesn’t automatically follow that worst-case scenarios will result. I won’t try and convince you everything will definitely be perfect and you’ve no need to worry (not least because that’s condescending and wrong), but do remember that positive outcomes are on the table as well.

        In other words, your boss finding out you’re gay doesn’t automatically mean things will go badly; it’s very possible it will be a non-event or ultimately positive (because it relieves tension on you). There are no guarantees in life, but I think it’s useful for you to bear the full possibility space in mind to moderate some of your anxiety over this.

        (More generally, you have all of my sympathy and my every good wish that things work out!)

    4. wherewolf*

      Seconding scripts for what you want people to say, especially if you’re in a “liberal” or purple area where people might not understand why you might not want to be out.

  20. Bnz*

    First, I wonder if it’s possible to just avoid the topic. When talk turns to your fiance, can you just make some bland non-answer and change the subject? If it’s about wedding planning specifically, you can say something like, “Oh, I’m so burnt out on talking about the wedding, let’s talk about anything else.” That will at least limit the amount of outright lying you have to do to protect your privacy.

    Second, I wonder if you could be deliberate about using words that will signal to an attentive listener what is going on. For example, if your boss asked if you and your girlfriend were doing so-and-so, you could reply “My partner and I…” same for countering “wife” with “spouse.” If your boss has any awareness of how these terms are used he may pick up on this redirect, but if he’s hostile or ignorant of LGBT issues it will probably fly under his radar (which is what you’d want I think?).

    I think these strategies may work in the short term, however it’s almost guaranteed your boss will eventually figure it out or be clued in. I would be prepared to explain why you were hesitant to correct him – frame it as a safety/security and privacy issue instead of a dishonesty issue. If your boss is sympathetic to LGBT issues he should understand this, if he’s not then he’s proven your concern was valid by his own reaction. You probably also want to be ready with an explanation to your coworkers if they ask why you let your boss go uncorrected.

    1. Anna*

      I think that horse is out of the barn, though. The OP has already introduced the subject and if they suddenly become evasive about it, it will probably make people thing there’s a much bigger story there. (They’ve broken up, the wedding is off, etc.)

      1. Bnz*

        Does that matter though? It’s not relevant to his job if his boss jumps to the conclusion that his wedding is called off because he prefers not to talk about it at work.

        I used the “I’m burnt out on talking about my wedding planning” line at my work because I just was sick of talking about it, no one seemed to care or assume I was calling off my wedding.

      2. SarahTheEntwife*

        People not wanting to talk about wedding planning is pretty common though. And if the boss is operating on standard heterosexual marriage stereotypes on some level, the groom being particularly tired of looking at napkin patterns is especially unsurprising.

  21. ExcelJedi*

    Hopefully the coworkers know that it’s poor etiquette to out others, but I personally wouldn’t bet on it. I would probably bring up a same-sex couple (celebrity? client? etc.) and try to suss out the boss’s reaction. If favorable, I’d probably have a private conversation, saying “some people already know this, and i don’t want you to find out from gossip. However, I don’t really like to talk about this at work, and I’d appreciate it if you keep this between us.”

    It all depends on the location though. In many places, there are no non-discrimination rules or laws for LGBTQ individuals. If that’s the case, I might just discreetly tell my colleagues that I’d like not to be outed at work.

    1. all the candycorn*

      “Hopefully the coworkers know that it’s poor etiquette to out others”

      But if half the office knows, they might not realize they’re outing someone when they encounter one of the people who isn’t in the know. They would likely assume that since Joe’s been open about his partner to everyone thus far, including attending social events and posting on publicly accessible social media profiles, that Joe’s soon-to-be-husband is common knowledge.

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        Yeah. We just had a similar faux pas around pregnancy. Two women are pregnant, neither really showing. One is open about it and the other only told a select few. One of those select few started chatting with someone not in the know and got confused when an office pregnancy was brought up, accidentally revealing the second pregnancy.

        It’s just…hard sometimes, to keep these things in the bag. This is especially true if the coworkers OP is out to aren’t a tight-knit group.

      2. Anna*

        And even if they do know the OP isn’t out to everyone, it’s difficult for them to be on guard constantly to not say something that will give too much away. It’s kind of awkward and there are too many people having to make that mental shuffle for it not to get revealed at some point.

  22. TychaBrahe*

    I think in this case it is important to know where the user is. For example, if the user is in Canada, it is my understanding that sexual orientation is a protected class nationwide. In the US, sexual orientation is protected in federal employment—and I’m not sure how much I’d trust that to continue in this climate—but otherwise is controlled at the state, and sometimes municipal, level, where it is not protected in the majority of states.

    If the OP were in a state where he is not a member of a protected class, he could literally be fired for revealing that he is gay. I recommend investigating before proceeding.

    1. naanie*

      Yes – this is very important. It really depends state by state and sometimes city by city, and can make a huge difference in whether someone feels safe coming out at work.

  23. justvisiting*

    Lady married to a lady here. This has happened to me a few times and I have just immediately corrected them. I am a fan of the subtle “he” correction suggested above. Most of the time, people are just slightly embarrassed to have made the assumption and appreciate the discretion. However, I live in a state where they can’t fire me for being queer. If you don’t, I understand you might want to tread lightly.

    So, since some of your coworkers already know, I wonder if you would be comfortable asking the one that has the best rapport with your boss to quietly pull them aside and correct them.

  24. mark132*

    I would recommend informing the CEO in a private situation. Since some of your coworkers already know, I would do it sooner rather than later.

    1. Forrest Rhodes*

      Het-woman here, and I totally feel OP’s concern. Even with the best of intentions, a Coworker Who Knows might let a specific pronoun slip during conversation; two CWKs speaking quietly might be overheard by a Coworker Who Doesn’t Know; there are all kinds of … can I say dangers? … when some people in the office know and others don’t.
      It sounds like you have a good relationship with the boss—would it be possible to do an in-person, one-on-one correction, with the request that it not become a Very Large Deal in the office?
      Also, I agree with others here who’ve said that you kinda have to do something; as I tell my kids, often it’s the cover-up (or attempted cover-up) that causes trouble, rather than the initial event.
      All support and encouragement to you, OP. I have a strong feeling that this is going to work out just fine.

  25. Bryeny*

    If your boss himself isn’t one of the people you think might react badly when you come out, think about having a private talk with him. Apologize for not correcting his assumption and explain that you haven’t said anything before because you don’t feel comfortable coming out to the whole firm as you’re not sure whether folks will behave well. Maybe ask his advice about it.

  26. Clorinda*

    Now that some of the co-workers know, it’s only a matter of time, and not very much time either, before everyone knows, including the boss. There is just no way that the “more liberal co-workers” will continue the deception. Someone’s going to say helpfully, “Oh, but Taylor’s a man, didn’t you know,” or at the very least they’re all going to use masculine pronouns. LW really needs to get out in front of this, because otherwise the boss is going to be embarrassed in a conversation with other people, and will, very reasonably, hold LW accountable for lying to him.

  27. MK*

    At this point, I think you should come out to your boss. Frankly, I think it was a bad idea to ever allow him to continue in this misunderstanding.

    Of course I understand why you did it, but from a strictly practical point of view, at work you either have to be out with everyone or keep your personal life completely to yourself. You mentioned your SO, but allowed your boss to think they were female, while you told some co-workers they were male. Right now you have put your coworkers who know in the very difficult position of being semi-deceitful with their boss too, possibly worse if he ever has a conversation about your partner with them. And even if your boss is ok with your orientation, they might feel they were made a fool of, knowing you allowed them to prattle on about your lady in a room full of people who knew your fiance was a man.

    1. An Amazing Detective-Slash-Genius*

      +1 to this. Also OP you say “I do not want to be seen as deceitful” but the problem here is that any time your boss casually says “she” and you go without correcting it, you digging yourself further into the hole. Eventually if you let this go on and the boss finds out from somebody else, chances are he’ll see you as even more deceitful then than he would if you told him now. He might even be offended that he had to find out from someone else and not you, especially if it seems like everybody else knows but him…he might feel left out of the loop and/or upset that you didn’t think you could tell him the truth. Sadly at this point I think it’s too late, and it’s kind of an all-or-nothing situation.

  28. Ragazzoverde*

    LGBT here, I think some people might be a bit upset if they felt you didn’t tell them when everyone else knew, and might think that you view them as intolerant or old fashioned. On the other hand I know how awkward it can be to correct someone if you didn’t do it the first time. I have a Spanish teacher who assumed I made a grammar mistake when referring to my “novio” and now too much time has gone by for me correct her!

    1. Mediamaven*

      I posted above but I had a wonderful employee who I really valued and cared about. I found out she was gay and that’s how I felt knowing that she didn’t want me to know. Like I was conservative or old fashioned or I would have frowned on it – none of which was remotely true. It wasn’t about me and I know that she was dealing with how her family reacted to it but it still stung a little because we were such a close, tight knit office. I wished she had just felt comfortable with it!

      1. Sara*

        Bingo. I’ve experienced a version of this too… hearing from a third party… and what wouldn’t have been a big deal then becomes a referendum on the friendship/relationship… when will they trust me enough to tell me themselves??

        1. Amber Rose*

          What a very self centered viewpoint. People have lots of reasons for not disclosing certain aspects about themselves, and many of them have nothing to do with trust. Maybe you should ask, when will you trust your friend enough to accept that they have their reasons to not to talk about certain things with you?

          1. Ragazzoverde*

            As an lgbt individual I don’t think it’s nessecarily self centered (I’m going to caveat this with the fact that I do live in a fairly open minded city/country). I think some people would be justifiably a bit disappointed if they thought you viewed them as potentially homophobic or intolerant, while at the same time understanding why telling people might be difficult for you.

            1. Amber Rose*

              There are lots of things I don’t discuss with friends or family, and it’s not because I think they might be intolerant or anything. Some things are just not easily talked about, for various reasons. For one, I really really REALLY hate talking about my feelings.

              Someone close to me did expressly tell me that they were afraid for a long time of coming out to me because of how I might react, and yeah that kind of sucked to hear at first, but that was more a reflection of the stress they were under and how many horror stories they’d read online than their actual feelings of trust towards me. I’m just grateful they were eventually feeling able to talk to me. We’re still close.

              1. Ragazzoverde*

                That’s kind of exactly what I mean though, you were initially a little out upset but then quickly got over it, which is very often the case in these situations

                1. Amber Rose*

                  Mmm, yeah. My point was that Sara’s comment about questioning the friendship because someone doesn’t wanna talk about being gay (or whatever) is self centered. Being upset for a hot second: normal. Questioning an entire friendship over it: making something that isn’t about you, about you. You can feel whatever you want, but it’s not cool to make that someone else’s problem.

        2. Oranges*

          That… actually makes me grumpy. What I choose to share with someone isn’t a litmus test of the friendship. Don’t make it into one.

      2. SarahTheEntwife*

        Sometimes it just *doesn’t come up*. Or you forget who you’ve told. A couple years back I found out a dear friend of mine didn’t know I was bi, even though I’ve discussed things with her that I’ve told almost nobody else, because for whatever reason my sexuality had just never really come up. And I spent an embarrassingly long time assuming a coworker was divorced or that her son’s father was otherwise not in the picture, when no, she’s happily married, she’s just really private about her home life and we’re not super close. (I knew she had a kid because that was occasionally practically relevant when she took time off for school events or whatever.)

        This is straying a bit from the LW’s problem, but if you’re not in a serious relationship — or bi and in an opposite-sex relationship — it can be particularly weird to come out at work. Me being bi is not relevant to my boss. At all. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know, because while I’m 100% sure she’d be utterly cool with it, there’s also probably be an undercurrent of “and…did you need me to do something with that information?”. It doesn’t mean I don’t trust her; it means we don’t have that specific flavor of closeness.

        1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

          I think this is very common in workplaces. Unless I work closely with a coworker I’m unlikely to know much about their personal life at all. I certainly don’t feel it’s hiding a secret from them that I haven’t flat-out announced I’m bi. It would be different if my spouse was the same gender as I am, in that it would be more obvious if I did talk about them. But even then there are people who have worked with my colleague for years who are surprised to find she has a wife. Not because she’s been hiding it because it just hasn’t come up explicitly.

        2. Jess*

          I think you’ve hit on something here – there’s a difference between coming out to co-workers because it’s *socially* relevant (in workplaces where it’s common to make small talk about families, what’s going on outside of work etc.) and coming out because it’s relevant to work (much rarer, I imagine, and could feel weird if you’re in in the former situation, but it comes across like you think it’s the latter.)

    2. Cheryl Blossom*

      I think some people might be a bit upset if they felt you didn’t tell them when everyone else knew, and might think that you view them as intolerant or old fashioned.

      And their opinions don’t matter.

      1. Ragazzoverde*

        I don’t agree, I think it’s percectly valid to be disappointed that someone thought you were homophobic etc. while still understanding why someone might not be super open about it in general.

        Also shutting down someone by saying their opinion doesn’t matter when they are ultimately coming from a good place is devisive in my opinion

        1. Cheryl Blossom*

          Sorry, but if someone thinks their feelings about how and when I choose to come out are more important than my physical, financial, and emotional safety, they don’t matter.

          1. Ragazzoverde*

            I’m not saying their feelings matter more by any stretch of the imagination.

            I’m just saying one possible outcome of this situation is that the person may feel a little bit put out that you (in their mind) think that they are homophobic, and it’s a pretty normal reaction.

            Also, I’m all for not saying it to anyone if you don’t want to, but in this situation it seems like the boss is going to find out at some point or other, and in my personal experience I’ve had far more people that were dissapointed I thought they would react badly than people who actually did react badly (I’m aware that this may be because of the country/culture that I’m from but just wanted to share that this could be a potential outcome)

            1. Cheryl Blossom*

              They can have all the feelings they want and I will continue to not care about them. There are any number of reasons I don’t come out to every person in my life. Just because I haven’t come out to a person doesn’t mean I think they’re going to be violently homophobic; it means that I’m assessing whether coming out to THIS PERSON is worth the emotional stress, the real risks of discrimination, them asking intrusive questions or avoiding talking about my personal life, etc etc etc.

              I’m glad you haven’t had people in your life react badly. That’s really not something everyone can count on.

              1. Jess*

                I think the point here is that if you’re worried about a negative response, the boss’s feelings are something that you might want to worry about. Not in the sense of “I don’t want to hurt his feelings and I need to manage that”, but in the sense of understanding how someone’s feelings might (rightly or wrongly) affect how they respond to something in the work environment, and how that might impact on the result you get.

                I think knowing someone and what their feelings might be can help someone decide between “I’m going to do a low-key, breezy pronoun correction” vs. “This person will react better if I sit them down in a formal, private situation to explain it.”

                That’s not necessarily you CARING, that’s you making a decision with all the information relevant for you.

  29. CatCat*

    Because your coworkers already know, I think you have to expect this is going to get to the boss. You have to decide if you’re either (1) okay with it getting to your boss through the grapevine (possibly by a well-intentioned coworker, or through just overhearing others’ conversations), or (2) would rather address it yourself. If you want to address it yourself, it doesn’t have to be a “statement” or “big splash.” It can just be breezy and matter-of-fact. You don’t have to address it at all, but I would operate under the assumption that boss will find out. I don’t think it will make you seem dishonest. I think people, including boss, will nonetheless wonder why you didn’t correct any incorrect assumptions they made.

  30. GrumpyZena*

    As a lesbian (albeit one who is lucky enough to move in very liberal circles), I totally get your guilt about the ‘sin of omission’ of letting people think your relationship is heterosexual. Coming out isn’t one announcement. It’s a series of constant announcements every time you meet a new group of people, forever. It’s exhausting.

    The first thing you need to do is prioritise your SAFETY. If it’s unsafe for you to be out around certain people, then don’t be. And don’t feel like that means you’re ashamed o